Former professional skateboarder and distance athlete Don "Lash" LaRue is excited about the upcoming four-day Soldier Ride in Phoenix through Wounded Warriors Project where he will bicycle about 20 miles on Friday and Saturday mornings.
Lash and his wife, Jamie, both Army veterans, have participated in other Wounded Warrior Project events and are WWP alumni. Lash served overseas in Iraq in 2003-2004 where he met his future wife, Jamie. It was during this deployment that he also took an IED hit that rattled his back and brain, causing a traumatic brain injury.
On his return home, unsure of his ability to do some of the activities he loved, he registered with the WWP, as did Jamie. They have participated in the Couples Project Odyssey, a five-day event to help veterans work through challenges related to combat stress and improve mental attitudes and outlook.
The LaRues have been preparing for the Oct. 17-20 bike ride in different ways.
"Jamie has been really good about going out walking and jogging and using the Nordic track machine," Lash said. "I'm a little bit more injured. I just try to get out and walk when I can."
He said he can no longer ride 100 miles a day, but has enough strength to complete the 20-something mile rides on Friday and Saturday mornings.
"In the afternoon, WWP has workshops and classes for us to talk more about overall health. People try to divide mental health and physical health, but it's all the same thing," he said.
During the ride, WWP provides state-of-the-art cycling equipment to participants at no cost, which includes adaptive hand cycles, trikes, and bicycles to accommodate various injuries and disabilities, as well as upright road bikes for riders not requiring adaptive equipment.
Thursday is check-in with a meet-and-greet affair, and the ride begins Friday at North Central Avenue in Encanto Village and ends at North Tatum Road in Paradise Valley. The following day, the ride begins and ends in Cave Creek. Sunday is check-out.
This is the LaRues' first time participating in the Soldier Ride, which began in 2004.
"They are really good events. They bring a lot of injured service members together," Lash said. "It's another method to realize there are plenty of things you can do if you are injured, and it's also a super way to meet new comrades, people going through the same things you are. It gives you a decent perspective on life after injury."
Soldier Ride is sponsored by GEICO, U-HAUL, and TREK. More information on Soldier Ride is found at soldierride.org. For more information on WWP, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.