After completing on Saturday over 30 injured veterans from around the world celebrated at "Rock the Farm," a concert fundraiser at in Amagansett.
Three days of cycling were held across New York to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides emotional and physical relief to injured veterans. Using hand cycles or bicycles, some of the wounded participated in rides from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Babylon to Jones Beach, and then a 30-mile round-trip from Amagansett to Sag Harbor or the extended 60-mile trip to Montauk, in honor of the late , who was from Sag Harbor.
More than 1,200 people took part in The Hamptons event, which also included two 5K walk/runs in Amagansett and Sag Harbor.
“Today was great,” said Nick Kraus, an organizer. “It was 20 degrees cooler this year.” Due to record-breaking heat last year, the 60-mile option was cancelled. “We were able to bring it back this year. It was good for people to go out to Montauk and receive the support of the community there,” Kraus said.
The wounded hailed from around the country, as well as the world, including six soldiers from England, and four from Israel. “We’re going into our second year of an exchange program with the British, and our fourth year with Israeli soldiers,” said Kraus. A London trip is planned for October with 15 American wounded veterans, and a trip to Israel is slated for next spring.
On Saturday evening, the soldier enjoyed well-deserved down time while listening to reggae band Steel Pulse, this year’s headliners.
Doton Yosef, 31, of Raanana, Israel, attended Soldier Ride with his best friend from childhood, Ofer Verfel, a 30-year-old naval cammando from Kadima, Israel, who was injured in the West Bank on July 6, 2004. Sustaining a spinal cord injury, he was paralyzed from the belly button down.
The two rode next to each other when they could during Soldier Ride; Verfel on a hand cycle, Yosef on a bicycle. Verfel, married with young triplets, said he enjoyed doing the ride. “The American community — people are amazing and nice, everyone is so friendly,” he said.
Roi Yablochnik, 33, of Tel Aviv, Israel, was injured in 2002 in the West Bank, when a grenade blew up and a bullet hit his shoulder. He completed the ride on a bicycle, and wanted to be involved in the project. “In Israel, we love our soldiers, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Everything is big, it’s America,” he said.
Captain Dave Henson, 27, of Southampton, England, thought the reception he and the others received was "phenomenal." He was injured in Afghanistan in February 2011. Henson was medically discharged, and chose to return to work next week in the personnel recovery unit. His military service is office-bound. “I’m not so good at the obstacle course,” he joked, “But I’m strong as an ox physically.”
Marine Corporal Garrett Carnes, 22, of Port Jefferson, was injured in southern Afghanistan when he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device on Feb. 19, 2011, and lost parts of both limbs. In the hospital for six weeks, he said he had a fast turn-around, and is already walking on prosthetics.
He was surprised by how many people showed up to support the riders. “Everyone who put this together for us is amazing," he said. Carnes said he actually considers his injuries "minor and not so severe."
"I have all my fingers, my head, and I can still have children,” he said.