HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - A Virginia veteran is logging hundreds of miles on his handcycle in grueling heat to help heal invisible wounds like PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other veterans' issues.
It's called the #Raleyroadtrip, and on Thursday, Ricky Raley rode to Hampton Roads from Richmond.
“The toughest part of this ride is definitely mental. Physical, you can train yourself and mental takes a lot longer to train for,” Raley told WTKR.
For 11 miles on Thursday evening, he was surrounded by supporters like Alex Oliver, the owner of Virginia High Performance, members of United Services Organizations and other veterans and sponsors.
“He’s doing 1,500 miles in 13 days, which is which is unheard of on a handcycle,” Oliver said.
To prepare, Raley trained at Virginia High Performance in Virginia Beach for his journey that started in New York City on August 13.
He is handcycling approximately 130 miles a day for two weeks as he travels to Pinellas Park, Florida. His goal is to raise money and awareness along the way.
“I lost nine people from my unit to suicide since I’ve been home,” Raley said. “People are suffering alone, and they think there is no help. My buddy just took his life. He needed to know there is a group putting their boots on for him.”
Raley suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then, when he got home, he was paralyzed from the waist down after a crash that nearly killed him.
He said the organization Boot Campaign changed his life. His goal is to raise $150,000 for the organization, which helped him regain use of his leg muscles – something he thought he'd never do.
“They’ll help you. They’ll give you the tools to be able to come home to your children, come home to your family and be part of it again and not feel like you’re hurting them,” said Raley.
Thursday night, there was a fundraising party at CP Shuckers at the Oceanfront, where sports legend Travis Pastrana stopped by.
“Just to see him smiling everywhere he is going and how much training and effort he puts in and how much passion he has for life, it’s really cool to see,” Pastrana said.