Twenty-three wounded vets from California, representing a half dozen wars, left the trail smiling, and will never be the same. Wheelers for the Wounded (WFTW) tackled the Rubicon Trail for the third year and gave these patriotic folks the ride of their lives —all just to say thank you. At the same time, fellow patriots showed a group of East Coast vets a huge show of gratitude with a trail run in New Jersey.
Speaking as a Vietnam vet who flew home to be spit on by some cowardly hippie in the San Diego airport, I feel this excursion, Wheelers for the Wounded, is probably one of my most favorite events in the ’wheeling world. We can’t say thank-you enough to our warriors.
WFTW started in Florida with a primary mission of providing a weekend of off-roading, camping, and in some cases, fishing, to our country’s wounded military — wounded physically, emotionally, and mentally.
On my first tour with WFTW in 2009, we had vets representing five wars and we camped at the Auburn Jeep Club property on the Rubicon Trail. It was an awesome experience. My wife, Stacie, and I make sure we go back every year to say thanks to these awesome folks.
In the Golden State, WFTW is organized and lead by Dan Hiney of Magalia, California. Up until this writing, his helper was Kevin Carey, also a vet, who now resides back east. “My biggest thrill of the entire weekend and all the work leading up to it,” said Dan, “is hearing the happiness of these vets as I walk around the campfire.”
Dan could not have said it better — happiness. That is what we heard in the rigs and around the campfire, not to mention at chow time when the Rubicon Rockheads donated awesome home-cooked meals for all the vets and drivers. Dale Robins of the Rockheads put it this way, “These folks deserve more than we can ever give them; but this is our way of giving them a happy, full belly to say thanks some more.”
What began as one guy — Jason Havlik trying to show appreciation to some fellow vets in 2009 — has grown substantially with runs in many places in the United States. On the same weekend as the Rubicon Trail Super Run, folks in New Jersey were flying the flag high to a great group of vets back east.
John Parrinello, one of the orchestrators of the New Jersey event and the WFTW national director, summed it up poignantly: “We had 42 vets, 22 from one veteran’s center, and we gave them a catered breakfast and lunch, with special rides, military displays, and a huge round of applause, along with a visit from the local chapter of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. It brought happy tears to everyone’s eyes.”
Both events focused on the simple task of saying thank you to our veterans. It’s something we all can do, whether or not you can get directly involved with an organized event. The Rubicon Trail Super Run uses volunteer drivers to give each vet a personalized experience on the trail. Most planning for this event takes place on pirate4x4.com in the Rubicon Trail Talk section.
WFTW New Jersey would like to thank the North Jersey Jeep Club volunteer drivers, the Wounded Warrior Project, Warrior Watch Riders, Military Transport of New Jersey, Newton VFW, the Sussex County Military Order of the Purple Hearts, Cell Phones for Soldiers New Jersey, and all who helped out.
The Rubicon Trail Super Run folks would like to thank the sponsors who provided raffle prizes, food, and fun for the vets and volunteers: BFGoodrich Tires, MetalCloak, Axial Racing, F-O-A Shock Absorbers, Crystal Basin Mountain Resort, NorCal Crawlers, Rubicon Rockheads, BlueRibbon Coalition, Placerville Kiwanis, Eldorado Hills Rotary, Robinson’s Medical, 4wdmechanix.com (Moses Ludel), Crawl, Pirates of the Rubicon, and NorthStar Engineering.