Marine Corps Major and Upper Keys VFW Post 10211 Quartermaster Jason Kendall, along with his wife and Olympic gold medal winner, Marketa, enthusiastically welcomed Wounded Warriors as they disembarked from their buses in preparation for their therapeutic bicycle ride through the Keys on Jan. 10. They were greeted with a magnificent spread of delicious delicacies donated by Ms. Lisa Brown’s Tavernier Dunkin Donuts store.
Many civilian well wishers joined a cadre of law-enforcement and first responders assembled at the VFW Post to encourage and support these combat-wounded veterans as they mounted their bicycles for their ride to Key West.
Windy weather and overcast skies could not dampen the spirits of these courageous and grateful warriors in pursuit of the restorative challenge that awaited them.
State Attorney Dennis Ward and Sheriff Rick Ramsay coordinated and worked through the intricate details necessary to make this event possible. As we approached our first rest stop in front of Coral Shores High School the energy pulsating from the students and staff was palpable. Basking in the love of Plantation Key and Coral Shores students refreshed, healed and prepared these wounded vets for the next leg of their journey.
Firefighters, the ambulance corps, the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority all set up a beautiful and refreshing environment for the riders to recover.
During the layover, students and veterans interacted, exchanging pleasantries and initiating personal conversations. Cards and drawings were given to the veterans as gifts by many students. These combat veterans went out of their way to engage the large crowd of students and personally express their heartfelt thanks to each one.
There were extensive groups of enthusiastic students and staff lined up against U.S. 1 from the Burton Memorial and Montessori schools, with beautiful displays of appreciation greeting the riders as they proceeded south. Grateful civilians from Mariners Hospital, FKEC and Froggy’s Gym sparked the cyclists with a powerful surge of energy.
John Donnelly, purple heart
— Key Largo