On a cloudy morning in Greenport, a ray of light was shining through the sky just as about 200 biking enthusiasts arrived at Mitchell Park to show their support for wounded war veterans Saturday.
The North Fork Soldier Ride, now in its second year, is sponsored by the Wounded Warriors Project, non-profit from Florida. The object of the 30-mile long ride is to give the veterans a chance to rehabilitate physically while seeing how much the public appreciates their service, something that is shown through donations and participation in the ride.
The event simultaneously works to raise awareness and money. About $30,000 was raised this year to be put toward more events and programs to help these soldiers adapt to life back home.
It isn’t just soldiers riding though, the public is encouraged to sign up, donate and pedal alongside them.
“This event is so great because it is a rare opportunity for civilians to meet and enjoy a day with these warriors,” said Dennis O’Donnell of Laurel, who helped organize the event.
This year’s ride was dedicated to the memory of 1st Lt. Joe Theinert of Shelter Island, who was killed while defending his country in Afghanistan. Theinert friends and family sang the national anthem, and several poems and speeches were given in the fallen soldier’s honor.
Local musician Robert Bruey also performed his original “Joey’s Song,” a tune that tells the story of a soldier trying to comfort his parents after his death.
“It is so wonderful of everyone to come out, it’s not just for Joe either, it’s for every veteran,” said Jim Theinert, Joseph’s father.
Soldier Rides are just one aspect of what the Wounded Warriors Project does. They also provide programs for peer mediation, educational help, physical activities and much more.
“It’s the least we can do to help them be the most well-adjusted they can be once they return,” said community pledge ride recruiter Calley Farnsworth.
This year’s ride almost didn’t happen after a different organization, Ride2Recovery, planned a summer race for the North Fork. That even has since been pushed back and will be held in the fall.
To learn more about Soldier Ride, or to donate, you can visit the organization’s website. Upcoming rides are planned for July in Babylon and East Hampton.