Wounded veterans from all over, perhaps hundreds of them, will be coming to Shelter Island on Labor Day weekend in September to take part in The Wounded Warrior Project’s first Soldier Ride bicycle event to include a course here.
The Shelter Island event will be the centerpiece of the 2012 edition of the North Fork Soldier Ride, which was launched in 2010. It is dedicated to the memory of 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert of Shelter Island, who was killed in Afghanistan just weeks before the inaugural event.
The 2011 edition drew 200 people to a North Fork bicycle course that started and ended in Greenport.
American Legionnaire Matt Rohde, chairman of the proposed Shelter Island event, has submitted an application for an outdoor assembly permit to the Shelter Island Town Board, which last week was awaiting recommendations from the Town Police and Highway departments before scheduling a vote to approve the permit.
Organizers of the North Fork event “asked if Shelter Island wanted to get involved,” Chrystyna Kestler, Joe Theinert’s mother, told the Town Board on Tuesday, May 15 before Mr. Rohde briefly described the proposal at the Town Board work session.
He said the event would raise money for the national Wounded Warrior Project and the Joseph Theinert Memorial Fund; it also would allow wounded soldiers who participate “to interact with the community.” The public is invited to join the ride.
Combat veterans who participate, some riding specially equipped bikes, include people with missing limbs, post traumatic stress disorder and other wounds as a result of their service.
Ms. Kestler told the board that Shelter Island has become “legendary” as an especially welcoming place for returning veterans.
When she visits Fort Drum, she said, where her son’s “Banshee Troop” is based stateside, she hears soldiers say “they hate New York except for New York City and Shelter Island.” They talk about Shelter Island, she said, and its elaborate and heartfelt public welcome of the Banshee Troop a year ago when its members visited the Island to pay their respects to the memory of 1st Lt. Theinert.
“What a gift this place and this community is to any returning veteran,” Ms. Kestler told the board.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty commented that the town was “honored to be partners and participants with you wonderful folks.”
In addition to the North Fork-Shelter Island event, Soldier Rides are planned this year across the country in Miami, Key West, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, New York, Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville and San Antonio; and overseas in Landstuhl, Germany.
“Soldier Ride is a unique four-day cycling opportunity for Wounded Warriors to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds,” according to the Wounded Warrior Project website. “The rides are exhilarating and a great way to help warriors gain confidence and realize you can do this!”
There will be two courses on Shelter Island, according to the proposal before the town.
A 25-mile route covers much of the Island except Mashomack and Ram Island, with stretches on Cartwright Road, Manhansett Road, Shore Road in Dering Harbor, Route 114, West Neck Road, Peconic Avenue, Nostrand Parkway, County Road 42 along Crescent Beach and North Menantic and Midway roads.
A 12.5-mile route for those who prefer a less strenuous outing will exclude the longer route’s excursions to Silver Beach and West Neck. Both courses will be run simultaneously.
Fire Chief John D’Amato, who was in the audience at the work session last week, added that volunteers will oversee the event and that there would be no “extra expenses to the town.”
All Soldier Rides are four-day events for the veterans who participate, with the long bicycle ride the centerpiece. The tentative schedule for the 2012 North Fork Ride includes golf at the Laurel Links on Friday, August 31 for early arriving participants and a dinner in Greenport; on Saturday, September 1, there will be a North Fork bike warm-up ride to test equipment followed by a barbecue luncheon in Greenport and a dinner on Shelter Island.
The Shelter Island rides will start at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday to be followed by a barbecue that will be open the public at the American Legion Hall.
There will be a breakfast for veteran participants only on Monday hosted by the Shelter Island Fire Department.
For further information, go to rememberourjoes.org or the Wounded Warrior website at woundedwarriorproject.org.
Police Chief James Read told the Town Board at its work session on May 22 that the main event, the bike ride, would be over between 11 a.m. on noon on September 2 and that, during the ride, the impact on traffic would be minor. He said, at worst, drivers heading north on a stretch of South Ferry Road might have to drive at 10 mph behind the bicyclists for five or six minutes; southbound traffic would not be affected because riders will use only one lane, he said. No roads will be closed for the event.
Those veteran riders with injuries, who will be using special equipment, will get an escort, with a Fire Department vehicle in the lead and a Police Department vehicle trailing.