In the days following 9/11, we turned to one another – family, friends, co-workers and even strangers – seeking comfort and drawing strength – to make some sense of this tragedy and begin recovering and rebuilding. We also were reminded about the many rights and privileges we so often take for granted.
Over the last decade, thousands of our servicemen and women have fought to protect and defend these freedoms from those who wish to take them away. Often they have returned home with devastating physical and emotional injuries. As part of the healing process, many of them have turned to cycling through an organization called Ride 2 Recovery.
Riding specially modified bikes, whether hand cycles, recumbents or tandems has proven to be a catalyst in healing physical and emotional injuries. I am proud to say that UnitedHealthcare is helping support their rehabilitation. For the second consecutive year, it is our great honor to be the presenting sponsor of Ride 2 Recovery events, most recently the 9/11 Challenge.
On Sunday morning under a hazy sky, more than 350 injured veterans and their families, friends and supporters, including 9/11 survivors and first responders, pushed off from Liberty State Park for a 540-mile, eight-day journey. The cyclists rode into Philadelphia on Monday afternoon and my team and I were so honored to join these brave men and women for an evening dinner cruise. I felt humbled talking to them and hearing their stories. Many told me that they were grateful for the support we provided to the Ride 2 Recovery but it is we who are most thankful.
The riders left Tuesday morning from the steps of the Art Museum – many of them stopping for a quick photo in front of the Rocky statue – before heading off to Lancaster. Today – Friday, September 16 – the riders will stop for a ceremony at the United Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., and on Sunday, September 18, arrive at the final destination -- the Pentagon. While they will celebrate having completed this ride, they also will remember their fallen comrades and reflect on the journey will all have taken over the last decade.
Throughout the ride, these cyclists face uphill battles, but through camaraderie and spirit, they will push through to the end. This shared determination reminds us that we gather strength from each other, and that connection to community is good for the mind, body and soul.
To all first responders and those in the military who continue to demonstrate bravery and self-sacrifice every day to keep America safe – a profound thanks.