MARATHON, Fla. (CBSMiami/AP) — More than 40 wounded warriors participated Saturday in Soldier Ride, a cycling journey across the Florida Keys.
Soldiers swam with dolphins at Dolphin Research Center late Friday afternoon, shared flipper shakes and learned dolphin-training techniques.
Army 1st Lt. Josh Pitcher, who lost his left leg after an explosion in Afghanistan in April 2012, said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“That was pretty much one of the best things I’ve ever done with my life,” the 24-year-old veteran from Kentucky said.
Pitcher said he felt camaraderie with the dolphins, Tanner and Jax, who also is challenged with missing sections of his dorsal fin and tail.
“And I’m an amputee from an explosion from Afghanistan,” Pitcher said. “It was almost like a bond that we felt in the water, it was pretty cool.
” I know they have service dogs and other service animals, but to be around trained dolphins that you know they ain’t gonna bite you, they’re not going to attack you … they’re just there to play with you …chill out, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s actually very rewarding.”
Participants also crossed the Seven Mile Bridge, the longest of 42 bridges over water that help comprise the Keys Overseas Highway. The bikes were fitted with state-of-the-art adaptive equipment to make the experience possible for many of the riders who were missing one or more limbs.
Organized by the Wounded Warrior Project, Soldier Ride’s mission is to aid injured military personnel who face physical and psychological damage from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The event is to end Sunday in Key West.
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