Sgt. Major Sedrick Banks suffered injuries to his brain, back and neck after an explosion in Iraq. But on Thursday, he was ready to ride along with dozens of other veterans on the second day of the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in celebration of the seventh annual Soldier Ride. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
“After years of rehab, Sedrick is focused on the future,” Obama said, welcoming the soldiers at the White House. “He volunteers here in Washington, helps mentor young men with the life skills they need to succeed. He calls himself now a warrior for society. This is his first soldier ride.”
The Soldier Ride is a four-day event that takes place in cities across the country. The soldiers riding in Washington rode 17 miles for each day, departing from the White House South Lawn with the the music of "Stars and Stripes Forever" blasting after Obama's remarks.
“Many of you are recovering from devastating injuries. some of you have had had to learn the basics all over again, how to stand again, thou walk again, how to run again and now you're here today because that's what soldiers ride is all about. seeing each other through the finish line,” Obama said.
The Wounded Warriors Project describes the event as “therapy through cycling.”
“Soldier Ride is a unique four-day cycling opportunity for Wounded Warriors to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental, or emotional wounds,” the website says. “The rides are exhilarating and a great way to help warriors gain confidence and realize you can do this.”
Obama also singled out other veterans for honor, sharing about a conversation he had with Maj. Janet Nieves-Ayala, when she declined a coin that the president typically gives wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, where she was recovering from injuries in Iraq.
“All men think your coins are the best. I don't. I made a bet with them that there was a coin that can trump yours,” Obama recalled her saying. “I said, what are you talking about? She said, I want the first lady's coin. The first lady's coin would be yours.”
“Janet says her proudest accomplishment is being appear mentor to other wounded warriors. She says that during her recovery I was definitely being carried. Now I feel like I'm helping to carry others,” Obama added.
Lt. Cmdr. John Jae Terry lost a leg when he was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“Reflecting on his service, he said he'd do it all again and now he's in the best shape possible so he can play with his three kids and today he is here on his first soldier ride,” Obama said.
Master Sgt. Louis Alfonso Ramirez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving an attack in Afghanistan.
“He lost good friends in a terrible ambush and he even assisted at the airport as they began their transfer home and later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and credits the wounded warrior project with helping him heal,” Obama said. “He says you know that they've got you. This is now his fourth ride.”