Brave Riders

Three wounded airmen participating in the 2014 Air Force Association Cycling Classic shared their stories of overcoming wounds, severe illness, and disability during a Friday lunch discussion sponsored by AFA’s Wounded Airman Program. “I got invited to the first Air Force [Warrior Games] trials in January 2013, and just fell in love with these kind of sports camps,” said Capt. Mitchell Kieffer, who suffered a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive detonation in Iraq. Sporting “gave me a reason to fight again,” he said during the June 6 roundtable in Arlington, Va. “I’ve always been an athlete, I’ve played sport[s] my entire life,” added SSgt. Melissa Garcia, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and competing during her treatment. Garcia said the wounded warrior sports programs helped her show her daughter “that mommy’s not sick” and gives her a reason to “keep going,” which has “helped a lot,” she added. Kieffer, Garcia, and SSgt. Daniel Crane, who was medically retired and awaiting amputation of his right arm, were expected to ride in AFA’s Cycling Classic June 8. (AFA release.) (See also Wounded Airman Recovery On and Off the Field from the inaugural edition of Wingman Magazine.)