A Bradenton, Florida, Army veteran was one of 50 veterans honored by President Donald Trump on Thursday as part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride.
But the highlight of the event – veterans riding bicycles around the White House grounds – was rained out.
“You’ve not only poured out the blood – and all of your blood, in some cases – for this country, but you’ve poured out the love from your souls and from your hearts,” Trump told the veterans during a ceremony in the White House East Room.
Retired Sgt. James Myers, 44, served in the Army for 20 years until he suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken ankle and back injuries in August 2012 when an improvised explosive device struck his unit in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
After he retired from the Army and returned to Bradenton, Myers learned of the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride. The event, which started in 2004, brings wounded veterans together in different parts of the country for four days of bicycling. The group provides adaptive bike equipment; the ride is intended to help the vets recover from physical, mental or emotional wounds.
“It’s really helped me and a lot of my other fellow service members reintegrate with our families,” Myers said. “I really mean that. It was really rough coming back after 20 years” in the Army.
Myers had to learn how to walk again after his injury, but he said the hardest part of his recovery was getting over it in his head and not feeling sorry for himself.
He had planned on participating in the Tampa-area ride but then was invited to the White House ceremony. The veterans at the White House started their ride in Annapolis, Maryland, then went to the White House and had planned to cycle around Arlington National Cemetery later Thursday and spend their final day touring on their bicycles around the Washington area.
Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, attended the ceremony, continuing an annual tradition started by President George W. Bush in 2008.
“I am proud to continue this incredible tradition,” Trump said. “We’re going to keep it going for a long time. I’m going to have it for about seven more years.”
Myers called being in the White House for the first time “surreal” and said he was grateful for the president’s support of veterans.
In an interview, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer praised Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and health care workers but said the VA’s administrative processes were in need of repair, leaving veterans without care at times.
He said organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project helped fill those gaps.