KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) -- "When I look out to this community, I continue to think of battle buddy," said Soldier Ride Director Dan Schnock during a Soldier Ride welcome ceremony held at the Truman Waterfront Jan. 11.
Schnock said, "Key West is the 'battle buddy' depicted in the Wounded Warrior Project's logo, which shows a Soldier carrying another Soldier."
He was referring to the amount of support Key West showed, as earlier 61 wounded warriors left Naval Air Station Key West's Boca Chica Field to ride the annual Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride.
Soldier Ride is an opportunity for wounded service members and veterans to use cycling and the bonds of service in overcoming physical, mental, or emotional wounds.
At the Soldier Ride kick-off, Schnock accepted checks from the Key West Area Chief Petty Officer Association for $13,501 and the Southernmost First Class Petty Officer Association for $7,100. Funds were raised in 2014 by the CPOA and FCPOA during the annual Soldier Ride Golf Tournament and the Key West Classic Softball Tournament, respectively.
During the ride, wounded warriors departed Boca Chica Field passing under an American flag raised high above the street by an NAS Key West Fire and Emergency Services ladder truck. Key West citizens waved flags along U.S. 1 as the riders made their way toward the Truman Waterfront.
"I feel like I'm coming back to life again, regaining strength, energy, and doing something that I always wanted to do," said Army Spec. Tomas Carrasquel, a first-time rider in this year's Soldier Ride.
Carrasquel was injured July 2013 in Afghanistan and he now lives with a metal plate inside his forehead.
"[Soldier Ride] makes me feel alive again because I know people care and that's a good thing to know. People that you don't even know," said Carrasquel, describing his reaction to the support from the Key West community.
"Right now, the Wounded Warrior Project and these warriors you see in front of us have a bunch of battle buddies out here in Key West. So thank you very much. I really appreciate what you do," Schnock said in closing.
For more news from Naval Air Station Key West, visit www.navy.mil/local/naskw/.