A Missouri National Guardsman who is part of the warrior transition unit at Fort Leonard Wood recently rediscovered a more familiar level of confidence.
Staff Sgt. Travis Radtke was part of a six-person team of Soldiers and cadre from the warrior transition unit who participated in the 400-mile bicycle ride from New Orleans to Tallahassee, Fla., known as the Ride 2 Recovery 2013 Gulf Coast Challenge.
“This gave me a little more confidence that I can get back to where I was,” said Radtke, who was the lone Guardsman on the team. “The challenge of being able to ride a bike for that distance really motivated me.
“Even if I can’t accomplish what I did prior to my injuries, there are still options out there for me to stay in shape and challenge myself. This proves to me that I can still compete with the younger fellows and do what I want to do without being limited too much.”
The Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood meets the needs of Soldiers who were wounded, injured or became ill as a result of an overseas deployment. Approximately 22 Missouri Guardsmen are in this unit.
According to its website, www.ride2recovery.com, Ride 2 Recovery is committed to “benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded Veterans that feature cycling as a core activity.”
The organization also raises money to help wounded Veterans overcome obstacles they face.
Radtke, who is normally in Detachment 1, 1138th Military Police Company, of Springfield, injured an elbow and ankle while deployed from August 2011 to August 2012. The injuries, and surgeries to correct these injuries, have prevented him from performing his usual physical fitness routine.
“It’s a different experience riding a bike,” said Radtke, who lives in Springfield. “I’ve always lifted weights or ran around with a ruck sack on. But ever since my injuries, I haven’t been up to par physically.”
Eventually, Radtke discovered cycling as a perfect fit for a lower-impact activity.
Prior to the race, Ride 2 Recovery provided Radtke with a bicycle to practice and prepare. He later used the same bicycle for the race.
“Ride 2 Recovery gives the unit so many bikes and then you can check them out,” said Radtke, who learned about Ride 2 Recovery from Mary Ball, the warrior transition unit occupational therapist at Fort Leonard Wood. “You can borrow their bike for the ride, so you can sign it out and train on it.”
Radtke said he spent about a month training to prepare for the ride.
“I’d probably put in about 100 miles a week,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Each day, Radtke said his team traveled a minimum of 50 miles and on one occasion went a maximum of 81 miles.
Radtke said he would recommend other wounded service members participate in a similar event because of the camaraderie.
“Everybody there has a story that you can relate with,” he said. “Some are more severe and some are different, but it goes to show you that no matter what the type of injury is, that there is something out there that can challenge you. There were people with one leg there, or no arms, with prosthetics, and they were doing it.
“Some people will sit around after being injured and think that they can’t do something, but there are options out there. Ride 2 Recovery will work with you – they’ll build you a custom bike.”
Hand bikes and recumbent bikes are readily available, Radtke said.
“I just think it’s a really awesome program where they try to get everyone involved and no one is left behind,” he said. “It’s not about who finishes first, it’s about everybody finishing.”
The highlight of the event, Radtke said, was the support he and the other riders received within the communities they biked through.
“We stopped and met a Bataan Death March survivor – he gave us a pep talk,” Radtke said. “We stopped at schools that had fundraisers for the program. Mayors gave us pep talks. All the support that the kids and communities showed us, it was really awesome just to see it.”
While cycling can be used as an alternate event for the two-mile run in the Army Physical Fitness Test, Radtke expects that he’ll eventually be able to run again. But he does plan to continue cycling to help stay in shape.
“It will definitely be a new hobby for me,” he said.
A 2000 graduate of Alta Loma High School in Alta Loma, Calif., Radtke earned an Associate’s Degree in general studies from Columbia College in 2010.
Radtke is supported in his military career by all of his Family and friends.