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As part of A Road Bike 4U’s partnership with the RIDE 2 RECOVERY organization, we are proud to highlight individual stories of men and women in our military who have given so much for our country. In this post we honor veteran Juan Carlos Hernandez, a retired E-4/Specialist, Chinook Gunner Crewman, U.S. Army. Juan Carlos began cycling in April 2010, only six months after his injury. He now rides more than 400 miles per week and has participated in more than 12 Ride 2 Recovery Challenges.
Here is his story:
“When I ride my bike, I feel relaxed. Free. It’s as if nothing else in the world matters,” says Juan Carlos Hernandez, a retired E-4/Specialist, Chinook Gunner Crewman, U.S. Army. “It helps keep my mind clear and focused. Riding my bicycle has dramatically helped me with my walking and my quick recovery; it has not only helped me physically but also mentally.”
Juan Carlos, who regularly sports shorts with his patriotic prosthetic leg, has gone from never riding more than 20 miles to riding more than 400 miles in a week. Since he began cycling in April 2010 – only six months after his injury – he has participated in more than 12 Ride 2 Recovery Challenges.
In 2006, Juan Carlos joined the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan in Dec. 2008 with Task Force Palehorse 7/17th Cavalry. He was injured on Oct. 13, 2009 while conducting nighttime aerial missions in the valleys of Afghanistan. His aircraft was hit with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) with shrapnel penetrating his body. Juan’s right leg was injured so badly that it required a below-the-knee amputation on-site of the accident.
Transferred to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Juan Carlos did his recovery and rehabilitation at Brook Army Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid (CFI). He moved quickly; released from the hospital in mid-November 2009, he was walking with his new prosthesis a few days before Christmas. By mid-February, he was pedaling with his prosthetic leg on an upright bicycle with no issues – except for a few minor accidents while learning to balance on his new leg.
While at the CFI, he heard about Ride 2 Recovery and joined his first ride within six months of his injury.
“Although long and exhausting, I had an amazing time meeting new friends, riding through cities that I never imagined visiting and making amazing memories. Ride 2 Recovery means a lot to me, helping me physically and also mentally. One thing I’ve learned from being part of Ride 2 Recovery is that everyone quickly becomes part of a family that keeps expanding.”
The R2R family is one of the main reasons Juan Carlos is still part of the program. “I love the program. I love what it has done for me and my fellow veterans who are recovering. I believe cycling does so many things that medicine cannot. I love the peer-to-peer mentoring we have with one another on the rides.
Because of the connections I’ve made with so many wounded warriors, I joined R2R as a staff member. I know there are many things that I can offer that others cannot, simply because I have been in their shoes and we can relate to one another. My goal is to help and mentor as many wounded warriors as I can. I know that I may not be able to help them all, but I will try to do my best to accomplish that goal and do it to the best of my ability”.