More than 40 veterans biked through Rock Hill in the first Soldier Ride program to take place in the city.
The veterans gathered Tuesday through Saturday in Rock Hill for the Wounded Warrior Projects’ Soldier Ride event, a four-day cycling program.
James Herrera, the director for physical health and wellness for the Wounded Warrior Project, said the program chose Rock Hill after hearing about the extensive cycling community. The veterans watched races at the Velodrome and Novant Health BMX Supercross Track after their Friday ride.
“We've had an amazing time here in the city of Rock Hill,” Herrera said. “The community reached out and was very open to having us roll through.”
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Soldier Ride is intended to help veterans engage with each other and improve mental and physical health.
“Wounded Warrior Project focuses on improving mental heath for our veterans and Soldier Ride has been one of the landmark programs we've had,” Herrera said.
Jeremy Blanks of Jacksonville, N.C., served in the Marine Corps for more than eight years. This was his first time participating in Soldier Ride.
“The camaraderie and the brotherhood is amazing,” Blanks said. “It's great to be able to do something physical with other veterans and the motivation and just the experience is amazing to be out here in Rock Hill.”
Blanks said it’s important the Wounded Warrior Program continues to foster the camaraderie he felt in the military.
“It’s great to have an organization that has your back and that puts veterans back together,” he said.
Lakeva Keel-Ferreira, who spent about three and a half years in the Army, said she’s been involved in the Wounded Warrior program for some time, but hadn’t tried a Soldier Ride program before this.
She has a knee injury, and was worried about making it through the ride. She said the ride showed her that she needs to be more active in exercising her knee, and more active in the community.
“It means so much to have this community,” she said. “As veterans, for all of us to come together, not knowing one another and then – it's like family just getting back together and having a family reunion for people you don't even know.”