SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Fifty military veterans will hop on their bicycles Thursday morning to start a three-day ride around the Valley.
The “Wounded Warrior” rides around the country are the brainchild of Nicholas Kraus. He’s not a veteran, but he and a buddy came up with the idea 10 years ago to salute veterans who have been wounded in battle.
The first ride was in 2004, and caught the attention of the Virginia-based Wounded Warrior project.
“They got us to do it again in 2005, then again in 2006. Now it’s spread all over the world, with different countries participating,” Kraus said. “Among the countries are England, Germany, some of the coalition forces, and Israel. It’s gotten really huge.”
For the Valley ride, the 50 bikers will start at 9 a.m. at the East Valley Nazarene Church in Apache Junction. They’ll also ride through Phoenix, Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale over the next three days.
Kraus has also filmed the rides for the past 10 years, and has made a movie. He said that the film, “Welcome To Soldier Ride”, will be shown Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the iPIC theater in Scottsdale.
Kraus said that the rides are a great way for the veterans to make friends with other people who are dealing with the same issues that they are.
“Basically, it’s a rehabilitative bicycle ride,” Kraus said. “Basically, you get these wounded warriors out of the hospitals and out of their homes. They can ride with their fellow comrades and share the common experience of being injured, and they can recover together.”
“At the beginning, you can feel the apprehension and ‘Why did I sign up for this?’ By the end, everybody is friends and making friends on social media, and I can see they all stay in touch,” said Kraus. “For me, it’s as rewarding today as when we started.”
During the ride, the Wounded Warrior Project provides state-of-the-art cycling equipment free of charge to the veterans. The equipment includes trikes, adaptive hand cycles, and bicycles that can accommodate various disabilities and injuries. They also provide upright road bikes for riders who don’t need the adapted equipment.