By Amy Preddy
Virginia, August 1, 2012 - Not mortars, blindness, cancer, or amputation stopped a dedicated group of veterans from reaching their goal of riding 3,698 miles across the country on bicycles, hand cycles, and recumbent bikes. On Saturday, a group of disabled veterans from America's military finished their journey from sea to shining sea, lunging into the Atlantic Ocean to solidify their achievement.
The cyclists tested their physical limits for 68 days, inspiring countless fans, disabled or not, to live active and enriched lives. The group cycled through deserts, mountains, hills, and flat lands to prove that disabled Americans can lead productive lives and accomplish feats most people only dream about.
"This ride put the ability in disability," said Retired Army Lt. Col. Henry Riley. "We've shared many stories, many adventures over the past 60 days."
Riley is a cancer survivor who looks stronger than ever. He had a personal conviction to prove: his doctor advised him not to go on the Sea to Shining Sea ride because she didn't think he would be able to complete it.
Riley and many stories of triumph and overcome obstacles made the closing ceremonies at the Virginia Beach oceanfront an emotional celebration for the riders and their fans.
"I promise we will leave the Atlantic Ocean today a little saltier than we found it - with our tears and our sweat," said Mike Claver, ride director for State Farm®.
Sixteen veterans participated, but they certainly weren't alone in their journey. They were joined by a team of support from nonprofit World T.E.A.M. Sports, the USO, and State Farm who traveled beside them along the way. Family, fans, and day riders acted as extra motivators through the cities and states they traversed.
"We have had good moments, we have had bad moments, but we've gelled, and that's what America is," said Claver.
State Farm sponsored cross-country ride to honor the nation's service men and women.