Veterans ride for cause

Two veterans from California were greeted by Tucumcari residents Friday as they made a stop on their cross-country bicycle ride advocating for veteran's rights.

"The main thing is making people aware of issues facing veterans," said U.S Army veteran Wesley Barrientos.

QCS photo: Thomas Garcia

U.S. Army Veteran Wesley Barrientos, center, and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Jeremy Staat, right, stopped in Tumcumcari Friday to speak with residents about issues effecting Veterans. The pair are riding from Bakersfield Calif., to Washington, D.C.

Barrientos said he and his friend and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Staat are riding for veterans and those currently serving in the military.

The duo set out on a journey to ride from the Wall of Valor in Bakersfield, Calif., to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. by Memorial Day.

Staat said they figure the ride will take 100 days and hey hope to reach the nations capital in time for the 25 year anniversary of "Rolling Thunder" and the 30th year anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

"The total mileage from a straight journey from Bakersfield to Washington D.C. is 2,300 (miles) but anyone can ride that," Staat said.

Staat said the trip is more likely to be around the 4,200-mile range. He said he and Barrientos plan to stop at least 90 times along the way to spread their message.

"Every day I wake up wanting to make the world a better place then I found it," Barrientos said.

Barrientos riding cross country could be a story in itself, as he is a double amputee. Barrientos lost his legs in 2007 during his third tour in Iraq.

Barrientos said he was riding in an Humvee which was damaged by an improvised explosive device (IED).

"I looked around and saw my left leg behind me," Barrientos said. "I knew that couldn't be good, and when I woke up I was in a hospital."

Barrientos said he lost his right leg later due to complications. He said after which doctors told him his rehabilitation would be difficult.

"They asked what my goals were," Barrientos said. "I told them walking in three months and running by six."

Barrientos said the doctors told him those goals were not probable, though he did not let that deter his efforts.

"I worked and made my goals," Barrientos said. "I want to encourage other veterans to get up and help themselves and not be discouraged."

Staat, who organized the bicycle ride is a veteran of the Iraq war and overall purpose is to raise awareness of and support for our Nation's veterans.

"There are many issues I want to bring to light," Staat said.

Staat said one of the top issues he wants to address is veteran suicide awareness. He said this year there were more deaths from veteran's committing suicide than active duty personnel killed in combat.

"We need to get these veterans the assistance they need to cope with the effects of post combat conditions," Staat said.

Staat said he also wants to improve the efficiency of the Veteran's Administration and other veteran's organizations.

"We need to make sure our veterans can get the services they need and deserve in a timely fashion," Staat said.

Staat said he would also like to promote veteran centers on all college campuses across the country. He said there is too much paper work and running around when a veteran is trying to take advantage of the benefits they have earned through service.

"Right now there are so many steps a veteran has to go through to enroll in college," Staat said. "A veteran's center would provide a location on campus where the veteran can pick up a form and directly enroll in college."

For information about Staat and Barrientos and their efforts visit walltowallbicycleride.com

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