The last leg of a 4,200 mile, summer long bike trip brought five military veterans to Washington DC Sunday.
They are suffering from everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to the stresses of being gay military members.
Retired Air Force Staff Sergeant Colleen Bushnell is a military sex assault survivor. The Iraq war veteran and mother of two was raped by a superior officer at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 2003. The base is now embroiled in a sex scandal involving attacks on nearly 40 female recruits.
"During this trip I had a chance to talk with other women military member and their families. This is a common problem," Bushnell says. "Some had never talked with a trauma survivor so that was very rewarding. I had a chance to share my story and raise awareness."
The bike trip was organized by the Long Road Home Project. Founder Casey Miller says it's an organization designed to help warriors heal from the wounds of war and to raise money for charities that help them.
"Like Retired Army veteran Glenn Fretz," Miller says." He's paralyzed basically from the shoulders down. He's riding for soldiers who didn't come home and those with PTSD."
Former Senators Elizabeth Dole was there to greet the bicyclists at a reception in their honor at the DC Architecture Center.
"I'm thrilled to be here because this is a cause I am passionate about. I want to do all I can support them and their families," Dole says.
The 90-day bike ride was filled with challenges. Ten blown tires each. Collisions. Riding 60 miles a day.
Retired Army Veteran Steve Taylor, who did it all on a hand cycle, says the generosity of people across the country is what kept him going.
"We were having trouble getting tires for our bikes, they aren't a regular size and you can't get them in stores," Taylor says. "The next morning we got a delivery, ten tires, ten tubes. Every day was a blessing."
And now, the journey that started in Washington State on July 15th has ended in Washington DC. Bushnell has one more mission, delivering a petition to Capitol Hill, with 14,000 signatures calling for a Congressional investigation into the Lackland scandal.
"My heart has healed," Bushnell says. "I have a whole new appreciation for how people across this country feel about veterans."
This is the first bike ride for the Long Road Home Project, but it won't be the last.
Plans are already in the works for the next one.
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