Purple Heart recipient Wade Pierce says it can be tough to be a veteran, especially when you are dealing with the physical and emotional scars of war.
"I got hit by an IED (improvised explosive device),” Pierce said. “That was our job -- counter-IED sweep team. Our job was to look for roadside bombs in Iraq, so we got hit a lot."
When he got back from deployment, he suffered from knee injuries, back injuries and a traumatic-brain injury.
Dealing with these new obstacles was not easy for Wade, and his mental health began to suffer. Finally, the Veteran Affairs in Salt Lake City contacted him and asked him to go on a Wounded Warrior Project trip to Moab, Utah.
While there, he said he changed his outlook, and when he got back from the trip, he decided to help others in similar situations.
“It gave me the push that I needed to get my life better,” Pierce said.
And it's for people in our military like Pierce that there are six men between the ages of 64 and 68 that are bicycling across America to raise funds for the WWP.
"You put six guys that are retired in a room together and they're all good friends,” said Tom Nelson, a member of the cycling group, “And the question comes up: so now what do you want to do?"
The answer to that question involved their passion for bicycling, their family and personal history with the military, and a little bit of want for philanthropy.
They planned the trip for over a year, with each group taking a state or two and contacting the people involved in POW/MIA groups along the route.
They planned to begin in Astoria, Oregon on June 12 and end the ride in Porstmouth, New Hampshire, with only 23 stops along the way – a 3,600 mile journey.
But trouble arose while training. While on a training ride, a car pulled out in front of the group, and one of the friends, Darryl, ended up with a broken hip.
Down to five riders, they decided to still embark on the journey. When the group hits Wisconsin, Darryl and his wife will meet the group then, and again when they reach their destination.
They arrived in Pocatello around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, an hour earlier than planned. So they spent some time at the Tastee Treet in Chubbuck and two of them even got their hair cut at the School of Hairstyling.
Many jokes were made about the lack of hair that was cut, but it was all in good humor.
Members of Pocatello's POW/MIA group arrived around 5:30 p.m., along with members of the Chubbuck Fire Department. Then Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Neilsen arrived, and the escort ensued. Motorcycles, cars, RV's and the Sheriff's SUV with lights flashing made their way down Chubbuck Road toward the Bannock County Fairgrounds, where the group would be staying.
“We've experienced incredible welcome in just about every city we've been in,” Nelson said, "But I would said Pocatello blown the top off of any expectation we ever had. This is a great, friendly town and we'll be coming back.”
The group then was presented some gifts by members of the crowd in a surprise ceremony, then it was time to clean up for dinner at Applebee's in Pocatello.
From Pocatello they plan on heading to Idaho Falls, and then leaving Idaho for Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Nelson also said they started out this fundraising ride with a goal of $25,000, then upped it to $50,000 after they received the huge outpouring of support.
As of right now they've raised $70,000, and they have over a month to go.
Pierce said this quick meeting of causes, along with the personal care and guidance he received, has reminded him of the good people in this world that make a difference.
"We've had a lot of support and this is a good community,” he said. “Anything I see with with Wounded Warrior Project I like to be a part of."
A great reminder of what Independence Day celebrations are about.