On April 24 – 26, 2015, our fellow colleague, April Godlewski rode with Team Strength and Honor to complete her first Face of America event. Riding among more than 500 riders — including 100+ disabled veterans, along with currently active military and retired military — April made the 110-mile trip from the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia to the historic battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.The weekend festivities began with a banquet on Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia with a most fitting musical performance by The American Bombshells. The evening also included a keynote talk by United States Marine Corps MSgt William “Spanky” Gibson of Oklahoma. He encouraged veterans who have become disabled to remain physically active and explained why sporting challenges like the Face of America provide motivation to train and to participate for these individuals.
Since its inception in 2000, the Face of America Ride has grown to become one of the largest annual bicycle rides in the Washington, DC region. Organized by World T.E.A.M. Sports, the ride recognizes and honors the commitment and sacrifices by military veterans wounded while in service to our nation.
For the participating injured athletes who have physical injuries ranging from paralysis to amputations, the ride provided the opportunity to improve or maintain physical fitness. Military veterans with service-related injuries pay no fees to participate — funds raised by all other riders cover their expenses. All other participants pay a minimal registration fee and need to meet or exceed minimum fundraising goals. With a generous donation from Schafer, April nearly doubled the amount of funds needed to participate in this amazing cause and her team Strength & Honor raised $39,876.00.The ride began on a cool and cloudy Saturday morning after a riveting speech given by Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft. Riders started the two day journey by first making their way through Arlington Cemetery to pay tribute to the veterans who have passed. After pedaling over 50 miles, riders had an overnight stop in Frederick, Maryland to rest for the evening.
On day two, riders enjoyed clear skies and bright sunshine as they continued their ride north, passing through the historic Loys Station covered bridge.
Just north of the Pennsylvania state line, the enthusiastic residents of the Gettysburg Links community turned out to cheer on the passing riders with patriotic music and a huge American flag hanging across the road. The support of the community was quite overwhelming and brought tears to many of the riders.After a brief rest stop on the outskirts of the historic Gettysburg National Military Park, the riders solemnly rode through the Civil War battlefield, turning south to the ride’s ending at the AllStar Expo Complex at the Eisenhower Hotel. Riders were cheered on through a narrow pathway crowded with family, friends, colleagues, and Gettysburg residents. Another huge American flag hung across the road, and large military guns symbolized the presence of more than 300 active duty and retired military riders. An outdoor lunch completed the Gettysburg welcome, and by mid-afternoon, riders were boarding buses for their journey home.
There really are no words that can truly describe this tremendous journey. April made new friends and created lasting social networks that will no doubt last a lifetime.