Team Walter Reed Bethesda rolled into Oceanside, Calif. to compete in the world's toughest endurance bicycle race, The Race Across America, June 15. The annual 3,000 mile transcontinental race ending in Annapolis, Md. is in its 32nd year. The racers will complete their journey in six to eight days, roughly covering 375 to 500 miles each day.
Team Walter Reed Bethesda, which is supported by servicemembers from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, is comprised of all combat wounded veterans that were treated at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md. The mission of Team Walter Reed Bethesda is to take wounded warriors that have come a long way in their rehabilitation process and give them an opportunity to set goals and strive to surpass them.
The Race Across America is the only event in which the team of wounded veterans is entered, and represents the effort to keep their competitive nature and warrior spirits alive.
"This event is a true test of man," said Staff Sgt. Dexter Williford, a crew member for Team Walter Reed Bethesda and a section leader for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting aboard MCAS Beaufort. "I am excited to see what these men are capable of. These men are strong, excited and ready to exceed the limits put onto them by others and themselves. Together as a team they will complete this race."
After getting medically processed out of the military, many veterans lose the sense of brotherhood and belonging they possessed when they served. The team brings these wounded warriors with common backgrounds and an interest in cycling together so they can regain the sense of camaraderie they once knew.
"This is going to be the journey of a lifetime," said Keola Dietz, a racer and wounded warrior with Team Walter Reed Bethesda. "I know I won't be feeling that great a few days into the race as I face the different conditions along the way and limited rest but I know we will make it through. What really fuels me to keep going is knowing that I am not facing these challenges alone and the fact that I am fully supported by my fellow racers and crew members."