11 October 2010---The AWCF recently supported a bike trek for Wounded Warriors starting in the UK, through Belgium, then Holland and back to the UK. The AWCF contributed $8000 and had participation from some of the BAMC troops. The narrative to follow is from one of the organizers. Our local organizer was Janis Roznowski who is from the Ralph Parr Pack.
(This narrative and pictures come from one of the British organizers)
I’m way over my target thanks to your generosity. All I can say is that when you have spent a week with the wounded service men and women and their medical backup team you realize that every penny is worth it. The other aspect that is so good is that the founders, Bryn and Emma Parry, accompany you as fellow riders and you can have absolute confidence that the money is being applied in the best possible manner.
When I did the first Help for Heroes bike ride in 2008 the total money that had been raised at that stage was less than £1 million. Now it’s about £60 million and shows no sign of slowing up.
My short “travelblog” is:
13th SEP – ST. PANCRAS TO BRUSSELS
We assembled at the huge and very impressive Eurostar Terminal at St. Pancras. I met up with Nick Taylor my fellow ex Royal Greenjackets biking buddy. We immediately came into contact with the large British and USA contingent of “Wounded Warriors.”
St. Pancras pep talk by Bryn Parry
After a very smooth and seemingly quick train journey we made a late afternoon arrival in Brussels where the bike ride organisers, Discover Adventure briefed us about the week ahead.
14 SEP – BRUSSELS TO LEUVEN 60 Miles
We were escorted out of Brussels by a rather smart Belgian police bike team including one very pretty girl who nearly caused a number of accidents! The hand cycle contingent (i.e. those with leg injuries) quickly showed they weren’t going to be left behind. How they were able to keep up with the bikes by arm power alone I will never know.
There was one rather amazing US Special Forces rider who had been totally blinded in action who occupied the back seat of a tandem which hurtled along at astonishing speed. His name is Captain Ivan Castro (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Castro_(soldier)
Captain Ivan Castro with Katie of Discover Adventure
We then had a good long cycle to Leuven including some hills (not expected in Belgium!).
15 SEP – LEUVEN TO ANTWERP 80 MILES
Not quite such an early start. Suburban sprawl is a big thing in Belgium and we never seemed to break out into open countryside but Belgium is relatively bike friendly. We arrived for lunch at a 2nd WW German concentration camp at Breedonk. One up from an out and out death camp, Breedonk was designed to house political dissidents, gays, Romany people and anyone who didn’t fit in with the Nazi ideas of harmless, malleable citizens. The regime imposed on these hapless people was quite appalling. No one escaped and nearly everyone died from overwork and ill treatment. We had a rather nice helter-skelter fast ride into Antwerp arriving at a riverside fort to hear about how Antwerp was taken at the end of the war. It was easy to understand why the Germans were so keen to hang on to it with its endless deepwater facilities. I was struck by how positive and jolly all the injured contingent were. The only complaints of physical distress came from fully able people such as myself. You very quickly came to think of them as physically equal to you until you saw prosthetic limbs cast casually aside such as this:
The other extraordinary thing is that despite losing both legs people like Greg (RE Commando attached to the Royal Marines) shown below seem to retain their physical stature (I was told that Greg had played Rugby League for the Bradford Bulls). I asked Bill Keating one of the US double amputees whether he had chosen his height with his new legs and he laughed and said they tended to try to make you taller than you were before, simply because it was easier to accommodate the technology but that he and others made them maintain their original height.
16 SEP – ANTWERP TO EINDHOVEN 95 MILES
Holland must be the most bike conscious country in the world. Every road in country, village or town has a properly maintained and swept bike lane (many of the bike lanes in Belgium were littered with puncture causing stones). Somehow despite the small area of land per capita they seem to avoid suburban sprawl.
17 SEP – EINDHOVEN TO NIJMEGEN 95 MILES
(Although there was a bit of rain it was mostly sunny and we had a great day despite encountering the Dutch Alps on the way to Nijmegen (the only hills in Holland). We heard about the successful capture of some of the bridges before Arnhem and then had a very good evening in Nijmegen after arriving at our hotel.
18 SEP – NIJMEGEN TO ARNHEM 40 MILES
The date coincided with the landing of thousands of airborne forces paratroopers to try to take Arnhem in 1944. We heard a very moving account of the exploits of Major Brian Cain VC from his daughter Francie Clarkson (wife of Jeremy Clarkson).
19 SEP – ARNHEM TO ST. PANCRAS
Having said goodbye to our bikes the night before we attended a very large service of remembrance. The Dutch are still hugely grateful to their liberators and maintain the strong bonds that were forged with the airborne forces in the failed attempt to take Arnhem Bridge. Each grave at the main cemetery comes under the care of one of the local children who place flowers on it taken from their own gardens
Thank you again for supporting me and I know that Help for Heroes will continue to grow in size and reach in the years to come. The abiding impression I take away from the ride is the indomitable spirit of the injured and their refusal to accept themselves as “disabled”. One of them told me that a professor at MIT had said. “It is not humans that are disabled, it is technology that is disabled”. That sums up their attitude towards their injuries and it shows why it is so rewarding to help them.
###02 October 2010 --- The Air Warrior Courage Foundation has prepared a power point presentation explaining the origin, purpose, and functions of the foundation. You may download and view the presentation by going to the About Us page of the AWCF web site.
Executive Director, AWCF
###18 August 2010 --- The Air Warrior Courage Foundation is pleased to announce that effective 16 September Dave Brog will assume duties of Executive Director. RRVA and AWCF have been well served by a common ED since the AWCF was formed by the membership of the RRVA in 1998; this arrangement has kept our two organizations in sync, while "taking care of our own." John Hope, "Shadow," has been an enormous executive resource and a successful proponent of those military men and women, and their families, who need special attention and support that the AWCF is chartered to provide. Nevertheless, the increasing pace of activity and the tresurer's serious health issue has prompted the AWCF to reassess the current division of responsibilities. Dave Brog will follow John's, lead, keeping close contact with the leadership of the Rats and continuing to serve its membership. All the best to John Hope....