Bikers hit road to raise money for war wounded

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Bikers hit road to raise money for war wounded
by Karen Jowers

Three motorcycle riders begin their trek from Virginia to Texas on May 15 to raise money and awareness for severely wounded and disabled troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The riders will end their journey May 19 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where many troops are being treated, including some with severe burns.

All money raised will go to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, a nonprofit association that helps disabled veterans of the war on terrorism. The riders will make a presentation to the coalition at a benefit concert May 19 in Austin, Texas. They will return to Fairfax, Va., on May 25.

As the riders go through Nashville, Tenn., on May 16 and 17, they will pick up another rider, Josh Forbess, a wounded veteran who remains on active duty after he was severely injured in a helicopter collision in Iraq…

     

One ongoing effort of the coalition is its Wounded Hero Emergency Financial Relief Program, which gave more than $594,000 to 277 families between August 2005 and January 2006. Those families received emergency relief for housing, utilities, medical bills, credit card and other debt, and other needs.

The Ride for America’s Patriots is led by Tom Donegan, the owner of RE/MAX Premier in Fairfax, who decided to help raise money for the coalition after meeting disabled Iraq war veteran J.R. Martinez at a convention in 2005. Martinez, a national spokesman for the coalition, is now medically retired from the Army. He invited Donegan to visit him at Brooke, and Donegan took him up on the offer but added his own twist.

Donegan described the ride in an announcement as a rolling tribute to raise awareness and funds to help those who had sacrificed for us.

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The ride was inspired by J.R. Martinez who suffered severe burns when the Humvee he was driving hit a landmine in Iraq in April 2003. While undergoing more than 30 surgeries at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, he could have given up instead, he started giving hope to others.

I realized I could lift people’s spirits I could take what’s happened to me and use it to help them, he says.

You gotta look outside of the box and realize everything doesn’t revolve around you. I looked outside the box and realized I wasn’t the only one going through this level of tragedy some were suffering with the same or worse things. So here’s the message I pass on to others: You’re not the only one. Reach out to someone else, and in the end you help yourself as well.

When asked what he thought about the Ride for America’s Patriots he answered, “I appreciate these guys reaching out — taking their passion and using it to help someone. You can be part of this ride … make a difference for wounded patriots and their families. These veterans made a sacrifice for you — please sacrifice a little for them.”

The riders’ itinerary:

Arrive in Bristol, Tenn., 4 p.m. on May 15

Arrive in Nashville, Tenn, 2 p.m. on May 16

Arrive in Little Rock, Ark. 4 p.m. on May 17

Arrive in Dallas, 3 p.m. on May 18

Arrive in San Antonio, 2 p.m. on May 19

Leave San Antonio, 8 a.m. on May 22; arrive in Baton Rouge. La., 5 p.m. on May 22

Arrive Birmingham, Ala., 5 p.m. on May 23

Arrive Bristol, Tenn., 5 p.m., May 24

Return to Fairfax, Va., on May 25.

Daily updates on the riders’ progress will be available at www.rideforamericaspatriots.com. Donations can be made along the way or through the Web site.


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