Dr. Gopi Nallaiyan founded the Little Moppet Heart Foundation with the sole purpose to cater to the needs of children with congenital heart defects.
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Soldier Ride® recently returned to Washington, DC for its annual events at the White House and Annapolis.
This multi-day adaptive cycling event gave more than 70 wounded warriors and their caregivers a chance to connect, while challenging themselves physically and mentally.
Last year, Army veteran Deven Schei had the special privilege of introducing the president to other attending warriors during the White House ceremony. This year, he was there as a rider, along with his brother and fellow Army veteran, Erik.
They rode together through Annapolis, but not on separate bikes – they shared a specially adapted tandem bicycle that suits their needs.
“We started riding in 2011, and we try to do one 40- to 50-mile ride each year,” Deven said. “It’s something we can do together, just me and him.”
During his service in 2005, Erik was critically wounded by a sniper’s bullet. His resulting traumatic head injury is so severe that he requires extensive caregiver support from his parents.
But before Erik was shot, Deven made a solemn vow: “If something happens to you while you’re over there, I promise to finish what you started.” Deven kept his word and enlisted.
“I was in the 101st airborne, doing the same job my brother did as a combat engineer,” Deven said. “Unfortunately, in 2008, me and my squad were ambushed. I got hit and ended up going into a long recovery.”
In time, Erik and Deven were introduced to WWP and its Soldier Ride program, which empowered them to get outside of their comfort zones. Most importantly, it introduced to them to a supportive community and camaraderie that changed their lives forever.
“No matter what branch or rank, we’re all cut from the same cloth,” Deven said. “Having that consistent community is so key to our recovery. Being around other warriors who understand our experiences and what we’ve been through really makes a big impact.”
Riding through Annapolis wasn’t the only part of the Soldier Ride DC experience — the White House opened its doors to the warriors and gave them access to the East Wing where they met Cabinet members, military leaders, and other distinguished guests.
In a WWP survey of the injured warriors it serves, 30.3 percent of survey respondents expressed physical activity helps them cope with stress and emotional concerns. Programs like this highlight the importance of managing mental health through physical activity and connecting with other veterans.
Warriors greeted the president one-by-one. They took pictures with him and then filed into the East Room for the president’s speech. As “Hail to the Chief” played, President Donald Trump walked in, joined by Army veteran Dan Nevins and WWP CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington.
Once the applause settled down, the president praised the sacrifice and courage of the wounded warriors on stage with him – and all wounded warriors – and promised his administration’s support in their recoveries.
“My pledge to you, our noble warriors, is that my administration will support you and your loved ones and your amazing families every single day, now and always,” President Trump said. “We’re never going to forget — that is our sacred commitment.”
The White House opened its doors to the warriors and gave them access to the East Wing where they met Cabinet members, military leaders, and other distinguished guests. (Photo: Wounded Warrior Project)
The president also thanked everyone for their support, and he thanked WWP as well.
“I especially want to thank Mike Linnington and everyone at Wounded Warrior Project,” President Trump said. “There is no more important job than supporting the warriors who fought and bled to keep us free. So, thank you very much.”
After a few more pictures in the East Wing, warriors began preparing for and looking forward to the remainder of Soldier Ride through Prince William Park the following day.
“We were honored by President Donald Trump’s hospitality and words of support,” Mike said. “It was a tremendous honor for these men and women to walk these historic halls and be recognized for their service and sacrifices."
"However, the need is great and growing. Now more than ever, the community supporting military veterans must rally to collaborate with our nation’s leaders on long-term solutions to the greatest challenges facing wounded service members and their families.”
A version of this story previously appeared on Wounded Warrior Project's website.
WWP serves to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women; help severely injured service members aid and assist each other; and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.Learn More
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