- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The publication of the Jan. 6 article “Debt of Gratitude” greatly assisted in the fundraising that made it possible for me to participate in Ride 2 Recovery’s Battle of the Bulge Challenge. I recently completed the trip of a lifetime in which I was able to able to go cycling more than 350 miles throughout the Battle of the Bulge sites in Belgium and Luxembourg.
I had the honor of pedaling alongside some amazing men and women who are recovering from physical or mental injuries with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Ride 2 Recovery. The itinerary for the cycling challenge was filled with stops at many landmarks and memorials of the bloodiest American battle in World War II.
My first day of riding was a short 36-mile ride from Liege to the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium. A wreath-laying ceremony there was led by World War II veteran George Ciampa, who buried most of the soldiers here when he was only 19 years old.
On day two, I rode 58 miles from Liege to La Roche-en Ardenne, Belgium. Day three was a 44-mile ride from La Roche en Ardenne to St. Vith, also in Belgium. My fourth-day of riding was another 44-mile ride, but touring the areas surrounding St. Vith.
Day five was the by far the hardest day of the whole challenge, because of the long climbs riding up the mountains of Luxembourg. I rode 80 miles from St. Vith to Luxembourg City. This was one of the most memorable days, as we stopped at the famous Bastogne Barracks, where General McAuliffe sent the famous “NUTS!” response to the German commander’s ultimatum demanding surrender. We also visited the Bois Jacques Forrest, where the men of Easy Company 2/506 PIR, 101st Airborne Division dug foxholes on the outskirts of Bastogne. When we finally arrived in Luxembourg, we visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. There World War II veteran Willie Novelli, who served under General George Patton, led the wreath-laying ceremony at General Patton’s grave.
Day six was another hard day because we had to battle up the same terrain that we came through earlier. I rode 70 miles from Luxembourg City back to La Roche en Ardenne. Day seven was the last day of our cycling challenge, were I rode 49 miles from La Roche en Ardenne to Dinant, Belgium.
Following day seven, we had two days of rest, before we were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On July 2, we rode the last 25 miles of Stage 2 of the Tour de France, from Ath, Belgium to Tournai, Belgium. This was one of the highlights of my ride. Cycling fans had lined the side of the course early and cheered us on as we pedaled past them. Once we crossed the finish line, we were given the VIP treatment, allowing us to stand on the podium and sit in the grandstands alongside of the finish line.
During the cycling challenge, I came across many warm-hearted people who were very grateful for the American involvement during World War II. I saw many before and after photos as a result of the destruction caused by both German and Allied forces and heard many stories from American World War II veterans and local citizens who lived through the war. Again, I would like the thank you for your support by posting the “Debt of Gratitude” article in January, which made it possible for this trip of a lifetime.
Staff Sgt. James Young, Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek, South Korea.