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warrior300.jpg Submitted by WWAY on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 4:39pm.

Wounded combat veterans got a hero's welcome into downtown Wilmington Thursday. The annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride raises awareness, and builds camaraderie between injured servicemen and women. It has been a long road for many of these men and women. Many injured in combat, and now they are rebuilding and reconnecting. ”I distanced myself from a lot of my family members, and this has taught me how to reconnect with them,” said Joseph Perez, a war veteran. The rehabilitative cycling program is a way for combat-wounded vets to focus on the positive and create a support network. Joseph Perez said after his war injuries, he holed himself up in his house for two years. Bryan Belcher was wounded in Afghanistan. He said, “A big part of rehabilitation for us is being able to hang out with our buddies who've been through the same thing sharing stories. You know you can relate and it’s been a wonderful blessing to come out and meet new people.” This is the third Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride through our city. Volunteers say the support for the riders is key. For some, the ride is a way to return to the physically active lives they led before their war injuries. While the road to recovery may be long, some say making new friends and connections make returning to normal. The Wounded Warrior program was started in 2003. Thursday's Soldier Ride is one of seven regional bike rides across the country.

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