GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Veterans and first responders teamed up for a multi-state bicycle ride making several stops on the Gulf Coast.
"You can't describe the fun, the comradery, and the blessings that come along with being with your peers," said rider Sharika Blockett.
Sharika served in the U.S. Army for nine years. She called the ride life-changing and therapeutic.
"You just can't describe how it all comes together, that it just makes you feel so blessed," she said.
Nathan DeWalt, just like Sharika, joined the ride team for the friendships that would eventually turn into family.
"I was forced out of the service unwillingly because of my injury, and so this program gave me that opportunity again," said Nathan, who was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2008.
"Being paralyzed from the injury from my chest down and living in a wheelchair every day, I had to find a way to get back on my feet, so to speak," he said.
Sharika and Nathan along with hundreds of veterans and first responders ride to recover. Bicyclists rode through Pascagoula and into Gautier Friday, stopping for a much-needed rest and lunch. The ride is part of Project Hero.
"It's a nonprofit organization that helps our Veterans who have PTSD, or illnesses of some type, or injuries," said Bill Whatley. He's the Vice Commander of the ninth district of the American Legion. American Legion Post 1992 hosted the riders for lunch Friday afternoon.
"To us, it's just a treat to have these veterans who were wounded in battle get on their bikes and get their life going again. For us to be able to greet them, and take care of them, give them some rest and water, and drinks, and food, and fruit, we're here to sponsor them and help them in any way we can," Bill said.
The cyclists will now travel from Gulfport to New Orleans in the final leg of their journey. Hundreds of miles, riding to recover.
The group started in Tallahassee Thursday.