VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -- A paralyzed military veteran made a special stop in Virginia Beach, as part of an east coast trip that raises money and awareness for the treatment of "invisible wounds."
Ricky Raley, an Indiana Army National Guard veteran, traveled 120 miles on Thursday from Richmond to Virginia Beach, all on a "Rubber Ducky II" handcycle. Even after all of that cycling, Raley had the energy to stay on his cycle for a quick drag race down 24th Street at the Oceanfront with action sports legend Travis Pastrana. Spoiler alert, Raley won.
"I've been on variations of this style of this bike for about ten years now," said Raley, who has faced a series of challenges in his life.
While serving a combat tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom his convoy experienced an IED blast, which left him with mild traumatic brain injuries. Raley was awarded a Purple Heart.
He returned from deployment in 2009.
Six months later he was left paralyzed from the waist down when he was involved in an auto accident.
Raley's experiences as a veteran is the reason he is riding 1,500 miles from New York City to Pinellas Park, Florida. "We came home [from combat] with everyone," Raley said. "But after we got home, within two and a half months, we lost our first guy to suicide."
In total, he says nine people from his unit have killed themselves since he's been home.
"I need to stop that. I need to stop that, not just for my guys, but for everyone out there," Raley said.
Raley is raising money for the Boot Campaign, a national nonprofit organization that runs programs to support veterans who have endured significant physical, emotional and circumstantial hardships resulting from their service and sacrifice.
Raley recently completed the program himself, at the Virginia High Performance Center in Virginia Beach.
“The trauma from being paralyzed was nowhere near the isolation I felt from the traumatic brain injury and the mental cognition issues I was having,” Raley said. "When my son says I'm finally happy again, and that it actually makes him happier, too, that's what this is all about. We are making families whole again."
Raley departed Hampton Roads from Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake early Friday, August 17.
He completed his journey to Florida on Aug. 25 and is a little more than halfway to his goal to raise $150,000. To continue following Raley's journey or to make a donation, you can go to Raley's webpage.