New Braunfels resident Chuck Sonnenberg is one of six military veterans chosen for this year’s Warrior Expeditions Great American Rail-Trail ride.
The 3,700-mile bike ride from Washington, D.C. to Washington state is organized by Warrior Expeditions and the Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Sonnenberg spoke to the Herald on the phone from Maryland on Thursday after a long day of bicycling.
“Nature helps settle me, and keep me calm,” he said. “A lot of people will listen to music when they’re bicycling, but I like to just listen.”
Sonnenberg served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 2008.
His most recent deployment was in Iraq. Throughout his military career, Sonnenberg worked on aircraft and in human intelligence.
The veterans on the bike ride left from the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
The Warrior Expeditions long-distance trip aims to help veterans transition back to civilian life.
The organization encourages veterans to heal from mental health impacts of their military service with therapeutic outdoor experiences.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing for me,” Sonnenberg said. “It’s definitely a challenge, but we’ll push through.”
About 29% of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at some point in their life, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The group of Air Force and Army riders will traverse through Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho before reaching Washington.
The riders are hoping to average about 50 miles on the bikes each day.
The group will camp and stay with veterans groups along the trail.
“We already had a couple of things go into our tires, so we had to scramble to get it fixed,” Sonnenberg said. “But military people always work together very well and take care of everybody’s issues. We keep everybody going.”
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