If you were assembling a team to bike across the entire continental United States, the duo of Jeremy Staat and Wesley Barrientos might not be the typical choice.
But if you wanted to honor veterans, the idea behind “The Wall to Wall Cross Country Bicycle Ride,” they’re the perfect fit.
Jeremy Staat is an ex-NFL and Arizona State defensive lineman who also happens be have been a teammate of Pat Tillman, former NFL player and fallen U.S. Army soldier.
Wesley Barrientos is a U.S. Army Iraq war veteran, and a double amputee. Barrientos served three tours of duty in Iraq, in 2005, ’06 and ’07, the last one resulting in the loss of his legs due to an improvised explosive device (IED). Barrientos will use a hand-cranked bicycle and wear an eight-pound Kevlar helmet to honor his comrades.
While this group doesn’t fit the mold of a conventional biking team, its primary goal is to remind everyone that this 4,000-plus mile ride is nothing compared to what service men and women have endured over the years.
The two men will embark on the 4,000-plus mile trek through 15 states, 62 towns and nine military bases. They call it “The Wall to Wall Cross Country Bicycle Ride.”
This idea began on Memorial Day in 2011, when Staat was addressing a crowd of school kids. He had asked the children if they knew what a veteran was and received nothing but blank stares. It was then that he realized he needed to make a difference.
Staat cites Tillman as his inspiration to form the Jeremy Staat Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to raise awareness and educate young people about veterans and the sacrifices they have made. He hopes the ride is just one more reminder to keep veterans on the minds of the civilian population.
Staat’s ultimate goal is to see a more efficient Veterans Affairs system. He believes that the support network veterans have when they return home, whether it’s help finding a job, getting proper health care or returning to society after experiencing unimaginable psychological and physical trauma, is the most important step in providing proper care. He is also attempting to raise funds through his foundation to build a private facility to provide specific care to veterans upon their return home.
Staat said the trip is already laid out, but that they would be willing to visit other towns along the planned route if it would help raise further awareness in that specific area.
The trip begins Feb. 19 at the Wall of Valor in Bakersfield, California. It is scheduled to end on Memorial Day 2012 at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Photo thanks to Official U.S. Air Force under creative commons license on Flickr.