Flags will be flying high this Saturday for the ninth annual Soldier Ride The Hamptons. As veterans, soldiers and their supporters bike 60 miles from Amagansett to Sag Harbor and finally to Montauk, or alternatively a 30-mile round trip between Amagansett and Sag Harbor, they will raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides support to injured veterans.
Additionally, the ride honors U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, who was killed at age 19 when a truck laden with explosives exploded at his checkpoint in Iraq in 2008.
According to Chris Carney, the founder of Soldier Ride, the event is not only a way to support veterans’ rehabilitation but also a way to take part in it.
Participants are given the choice of cycling 30 or 60 miles or walking a 5K route in Sag Harbor or Amagansett. It costs $50 to ride either route and $25 to do the walk. For those 21 and younger, the price is $25 per entry.
At the start of the ride, wounded veterans start out first, with soldiers and supporters in tow.
“It is significant to see their struggles firsthand—as someone deals with a prosthetic leg as they climb the Two Holes of Water Road hill,” Mr. Carney said. “You can ride up next to someone and ask them how they’re riding with their arms, and there are guys that are willing to talk about it. It’s a part of their rehabilitation.”
Mr. Carney said people from all walks of life come together for the event, including Boy Scouts on BMX bikes and professional cyclists on triathlon bikes.
And as of Monday, more than 50 soldiers had signed up, in addition to veterans from England. Soldier Ride has expanded to other countries—England, Germany and Israel.
“They learn from each other—at the beginning the Americans and the English are sitting at opposite tables and as the week goes on it’s hard to tell who’s who,” Mr. Carney said. “It’s good for all nations involved to see they’re not the only ones going through this.”
According to JoAnn Lyles, Lance Cpl. Haerter’s mother and an organizer of Soldier Ride, the event is eye-opening for everyone, especially those not struggling with physical, mental or emotional wounds inflicted during military service.
“We don’t know how bad a day can be until we see the wounded warriors,” she said. “Things aren’t as bad as you think. They are amazing with how much they can do.”
Soldier Ride began when Mr. Carney, an East Hampton resident who was working as a bartender at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett at the time, bicycled from Montauk to San Diego in order to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. In the years since then, annual rides have been organized throughout the country to raise money for the cause.
“It’s amazing what’s happened—we started collecting money in a big jar outside of a bar and now we’re helping to pass legislation in how soldiers are treated,” he said.
This year, registration begins at 7 a.m., with a kickoff celebration at 8:30 a.m. at Ocean View Farm on Montauk Highway in Amagansett. The ride begins at 9 a.m. and walkers start once the cyclists have left. At 10:30 a.m., there will be a ceremony to honor Lance Cpl. Haerter in Sag Harbor. At 11 a.m., comrades of Lance Cpl. Haerter will participate in a special tribute to their fallen friend called the Lap of Heroes, also in Sag Harbor. From noon to 4 p.m., there will be a community picnic at Ocean View Farm.
At 6 p.m., there will be a Rock the Farm concert, also at Ocean View. Tickets for that event are sold separately and can be purchased through stephentalkhouse.com. The English Beat, a popular British rock band, is headlining the concert.
Ms. Lyles said she is grateful that the Soldier Ride event honors her son each year.
“It is nice that people learn Jordan’s story and it helps that people know of him,” she said. “It just feels good that he’s not forgotten.”
Mr. Carney said it is essential not only to remember those who have fallen, but also to support those who are still around.
“Thoughts and prayers are great, but people can have a more unique opportunity and participate and be a part of their rehabilitation,” he said. “It’s been a gift to be a part of this. It changed my life forever.”