Soldier Ride helps wounded veterans heal through cycling - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Soldier Ride helps wounded veterans heal through cycling

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Starting Thursday morning, dozens of veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be riding through the streets of Chicago as part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride.

The physical and mental scars are not always obvious, but these brave wounded warriors are in town to raise awareness about the realities of war.

Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Donna Pratt will be participating in her fourth Soldier Ride with the non-profit organization. The three-day Chicago ride kicks off Thursday morning.

"This ride helps you exceed some of the challenges you thought you could not do," Pratt says.

So on Wednesday afternoon, the South Side native was fitted in a bike adapted to her needs.

"On a hand cycle, even the slightest speed bumps feel like a hill," she explains of the bike.

Pratt's injury has stumped doctors for years. No one knows what caused her to wake up one day in Iraq five years ago with swollen and painful feet. 

"When I got Medivac-ed back to the States, they found out that I had fractures in both feet, torn ligaments, torn tendons, and nerve damage," Pratt explains. "Since then, I've got knee problems, cysts on spinal cord."

Her condition worsened and left her in a wheelchair for two years. She returned to Chicago and depression eventually set in. 

Pratt says the Soldier Ride empowers her.

"Just to be able to feel good about yourself again after being injured," Pratt says.

Retired Special Operations Army Sergeant Jeff Paleske was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder since his 2004 tour in Iraq. Short term memory, depression and migraines are just some of his struggles.

"I was IED'd 8 times, which are the roadside bombs. I was blown up a 9th in the battle for Sadr City," Paleske explains. "For me, its a chance to escape and not have to worry about things for a while."

It's a chance for all the Wounded Warriors to overcome their no matter their level of ability.

The Soldier Ride kicks off at the Rosemont Fire House at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning with a 17 mile ride. There will be another ride on Friday on Saturday.

For more information.


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