In what has become an annual summer staple on the East End, hundreds of people rode their bicycles from Amagansett to Sag Harbor and back to raise money and awareness for war veterans injured in the line of duty.
The 15th annual Soldier Ride of the Hamptons, sponsored by The Wounded Warrior Project, drew roughly 400 riders, according to event organizers.
Jimmy Mickel, 39, of Columbia, South Carolina, was in high spirits after the 25-mile ride, despite not having ridden a bicycle in roughly 20 years.
“That was the toughest part,” he said with a laugh.
Mickel, a Wounded Warrior member who served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said he sustained broken ribs and other injuries from a tank accident while overseas, and was still dealing with medical difficulties as a result years later.
For Mickel, the camaraderie of bicycling alongside fellow soldiers was his favorite part of the day.
Proceeds from the event—estimated to be $21,290 on the event’s website—go to Wounded Warrior programs such as helping veterans receive combat stress recovery, job training and counseling, and adaptive sports programs.
For Paul Kennedy, 66, of Springs, taking part in the bicycle tour has become a tradition.
Kennedy has been coming to the tour almost every year, having missed only the first event. With both his children and nephews cycling along with him, Kennedy said the event was a way for him to both spend time with his family and support the troops, such as nephew Donald Kennedy, 45, who he said did two tours in the Army in Fallujah, Iraq.
“I actually would feel guilty if I didn’t come,” he said. “There are people that I only see in this ride. And it’s nice to see people that you haven’t seen in a while.”
David Milia, 19, of Amagansett, who is also Kennedy’s nephew, said he had not trained for the ride, which stretched from Amagansett to Marine Park in Sag Harbor. However, he said he was very relaxed cycling with family and friends in his second time at the event.
For Milia, who has family that served in the Vietnam War, the ride is a good cause.
“I like supporting the soldiers,” he said. “It’s worth my time, without a doubt.”
Mike Linnington, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, biked in the tour for the first time. He said he was touched by how people cheered and waved at bicyclists as they entered Marine Park for their “Heroes Lap” around Main Street.
“The community support is incredible,” Linnington said. “The friendship, the camaraderie, you just feel the love, and the Wounded Warriors love coming here.”