GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some 200 military veterans are taking part in a nearly 400 mile bike ride from New Orleans to Tallahassee. It's called Ride 2 Recovery, a unique program designed to help injured vets lead healthier lives.
The cycling group traveled across the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Monday. Their reasons for joining Ride 2 Recovery are as varied as their backgrounds.
"It means a lot to me, 'cause this is my first time doing it. I'm recovering from knee surgery, and I think it's helping me a lot," said veteran Larry Taylor of Tennessee.
"This is my first time. It's really impressive," said Rick Harper of Folsom, Louisiana, "I was in the Army 35 years ago. And I just thought I'd come out and see what some of the younger guys are up to."
Following a lively send-off from the kids of 28th Street Elementary, the riders made a stop at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Older veterans, like Bill Williams, appreciated the visit.
"Oh, God bless 'em. God bless 'em every one. I'm tired of wars, tired of wars," said Williams.
Some of the riders are making the journey in honor of others. Army veteran Mike Randolph has two names written on his legs: Marine Corporal Cooper and Air Force Lt. Schulte.
"These are people who died in action in Afghanistan. They're both from Mississippi. And it's our little tribute we can give to them, since they couldn't be on the ride with us today," Randolph explained.
Firefighters, school children and a giant American flag greeted the riders near the Biloxi lighthouse.
Ride 2 Recovery challenges these veterans and keeps them focused.
"We can get through those bad days when we're at home. And this helps us get through those days to the next ride, and the next ride, next ride. And that's all you need sometimes that little sense of, hey I did this and if I did that, I can do this," said participant Damian Orslene.
"Keeps me sane. Keeps me alive. Keeps me focused. And concentrating on everything but what bothers me," said a Virginia rider, Marina Libro.
That's exactly what rides like this are designed to promote; healing and recovery for America's wounded warriors.
Ride 2 Recovery is organized by the Fitness Challenge Foundation in partnership with the military and the VA volunteer service office.