Friday, May 19, 2006

Bikers on Cross-country Trek to Cheer Wounded Veterans

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Tom Donegan, foreground, Bob Loy, rear left, and Joe Kurnos start out from Fairfax, Va., Monday morning on their “Ride for America’s Patriots” to San Antonio, Texas. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Webcam mounted on the front of Tom Donegan’s motorcycle will allow the public to follow the progress of the “Ride for America’s Patriots.” Connected to a laptop powered by the engine, the cam will send an image every 10 seconds. At the end of the ride, the images will be combined into a video. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)

By Leo Shane III - Stars and Stripes Pacific edition
WASHINGTON — Tom Donegan wants to send the wounded soldiers at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas a big, loud “thank you.”

So he and a handful of friends will come roaring into San Antonio later this week on a fleet of noisy motorcycles flying a banner praising the patriots recovering there.

“We just want to thank them for their service,” said Donegan, who owns a Virginia real estate firm. “They need to know that their sacrifice hasn’t been forgotten.”

The 3,200-mile, 10-day round-trip began Monday outside of Washington and will wind through Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. The riders are hoping to raise more than $20,000 for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, which funds grants and programs to help wounded veterans move on with their lives.

Donegan said he was inspired to help the injured soldiers after meeting with coalition spokesman J.R. Martinez, a former soldier who was wounded in an IED attack in Iraq in April 2005.

The group will visit Martinez — and the other patients at the medical center — from May 19 to May 22, delivering souvenirs from the ride and grateful handshakes.

Donegan said he expects other riders to join the convoy for at least part of the ride. One confirmed day tripper is Josh Forbess, a soldier wounded in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in 2003.

Forbess said shows of support like this are crucial during the recovery process. “It’s just you and your thoughts when the lights go out,” he said. “It’s good to see that, to know there is support.”

The bikers have set up Web cams on the motorcycles and will be giving daily updates of the ride through their Web site,

Visitors can also donate to the effort there and learn more about the coalition’s programs.

And you will also find on their website a place where you can send a message to be delivered to the troops when they get arrive a BAMC.