Injured Veteran Participates in Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride

July 14, 2018 05:30 PM

Saturday wrapped up a unique bike ride across St. Paul aimed at motivating wounded veterans to get the care they need and live active with healthy lives.

A few years ago, it would be hard to catch Vernon Bailey enjoying conversations.


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"It was a struggle," Bailey said.

Bailey served 16 years in the U.S. Navy until an injury to his right knee forced him out.

"I couldn't run anymore. I had three knee surgeries," said Bailey.

He fell into a state of depression.

"I just kept gaining weight and wallowing in pity," Bailey said. "I couldn't do what I used to do."

He found strength again in 2015, after biking in his first ever 'Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride.'

"They motivated me with the Wounded Warrior Project to work past my depression and anxiety...coming out of the service and my injuries realize I can push myself a little harder," Bailey said.

Bailey traveled from Houston to St. Paul this weekend for the 'Second Annual Wounded Warrior Project Ride.'

His hope is to do for other veterans what was done for him.

"That's part of coming back here...not just to challenge myself, but to share with them, you know you can do it," said Bailey.

The event is put on by Tom Cocchiarella, a former U.S Airmen.

"They are just amazing," Cocchiarella said about the Veterans attending.

Veterans, from different branches of the military and from across the nation, converged in St. Paul.

As if biking nearly 35 miles in two days wasn't enough, Cocchiarella said all have some sort of wound, whether physical or mental.

"They overcome and they do it as a team," Cocchiarella said.

RELATED: Bike Ride in Twin Cities Supports Wounded Vets

He added it's more than just pedaling to get in shape, it's about helping former servicemen and women find their confidence again.

"They are inspired and then they've got their comrades now that say 'I've got your back, I'll help ya,'" said Cocchiarella.

 "When you finally come out of your funk, that's when it really just makes a difference," Bailey said.

The event wraps ups Sunday, July 15, with a luncheon.


Jonathan Rozelle

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