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Wounded Women Warrior ride: Bicyclists honored in St. James

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

ST. JAMES—Twenty Wounded Women Warriors got a heroes’ welcome as they pedaled through town last Thursday.

The women, each of whom have sustained wartime injuries as a result of their military service in the Middle East and elsewhere, proved their stamina and dedication as they took part in a 16-mile ride through the community off N.C. 211.

“We want to introduce to you 20 of America’s finest,” St. James POA board member Tom Kuhn said as the women, clad in matching pink Warrior Ride T-shirts, rode through the Woodlands Park amphitheater to much applause and cheers as they concluded their ride Thursday afternoon.

“This is the biggest blessing of my life, is to be a part of this and get to meet strong, powerful women who can out-cycle me and my truck—and I speed, ” organizer Debra Racine said just before introducing each of the women, their rank and branch of service and where they are from.

Specialist Tracy Windley, speaking on behalf of the Wounded Women Warriors, thanked Bob and Debra Racine for organizing the all-expenses-paid event for the group.

“Some of us have and some us don’t have,” she said, drawing laughter as she added, “I’ve never been on a private plane in my life. I plan not to ride commercial ever again.”

St. James Mayor Pro Tem Becky Dus proclaimed the day Women’s Wounded Warrior Day in her town.

“By the way, we’re moving here,” quipped one of the Wounded Warriors, staff Sgt. Alicia Watkins.

Joe Kinzer, a retired Army three-star general who lives in St. James, also spoke.

“Our volunteer force is none better in the world, and these young ladies are indicative of that,” he said.

He noted they are representative of a much larger contingent of Wounded Warriors, such as those at Fort Bragg and other battalions where “they are doing the same kind of thing we’re doing today in support of our warriors. There are many more that need our help and support.”

He reminded the crowd that “our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard are in harm’s way as we speak. Keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we leave here today—not only Wounded Warriors, but those who continue to serve.”

One of the warriors, Navy veteran Leah Dove, said she was injured while fighting pirates. When she joined the service, “I put my uniform on and walked around town,” she said. “It was the proudest moment of my life. Every time I see a flag, my heart jumps.”

Life for her these past two years has consisted of many doctor visits, medical appointments and medications.

“I kind of lost sight of my true love, so to speak,” she said. “Having all of you guys out there supporting us and saying, ‘Go, girls’ and ‘girl power,’ it reminded me of why I joined the military to begin with. I didn’t join to make a big name for myself. I didn’t join to make a lot of money. I joined for the children, and I joined so that people could have a life and live it the way that they want to live it. You guys reminded me of that today.”