WASHINGTON, D.C. - Roughly two dozen Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were welcomed to the White House today as President Obama hosted the Wounded Warriors Soldier Ride on the lawn of the residence.
Donned in bright blue athletic gear, the soldiers had arrived in Washington for four days of cycling events run by the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit dedicated to the physical, mental, and emotional well being of current and former U.S. service members.
President Obama told the veterans he was proud their apparel was emblazoned with the stars and stripes.
"I want anybody who sees this ride go by to know that they're in the presence of heroes."
Despite the extent of their injuries, the vets still found ways to participate on bicycle or tricycle. Two brothers, Eric and Deven Schei, who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, rode a specially designed tandem bike.
Each soldier rode 34 miles to arrive at the White House. They'll do an additional 24 Saturday.
The president called it one of the most inspiring events to come to the White House.
"I know you're all doing this ride for different reasons," Obama said, noting some may have arrived for camaraderie, athletic pursuit, or to honor a loved one.
All riders, he said, were there to live their lives to the fullest.
"You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we've been blessed with. You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can't.
As the event concluded, the Commander in Chief blew an air-horn, signalling the riders to do laps in the White House driveway. Several hundred uniformed military and their families watched the procession as "Hail to the Chief" played in the background.
This is the sixth year the Wounded Warriors Project has run its cycling event, and this is the fourth trip to the White House. The ride is not exclusive to Washington; past participants have made rides from Key West to Germany. While many of the group's activities revolve around outdoor retreats, the non-profit also sponsors career workshops and family support programs.