Cyclist wants 1,500 mile ride to be 'lighthouse beam' for isolated fellow veterans

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A war veteran is on a very special cross-country mission.

The Indiana countryside is beautiful. But Ricky Raley is focused on the road.

The road to home.

A man. His handbike. And just riding.

“It allows me to get out, exercise and feel the freedom of being on the road again without my wheelchair,” Raley said.

Simple freedom.

Ricky was injured in Iraq ten years ago, paralyzed from the waist down.

“My biceps are my new thighs and my forearms are my new calves, so I have to make ‘em work.”

They work just fine, so Ricky rides mile after mile.

“Right now I’m working my way up to 500. This week I’ll be about 350 to 400. I’m out here six days a week right now, riding.”

The journey home has been long. With other veterans, Raley went to a program called The Boot Campaign for Mental and Physical Training. It changed his life.

“I can be in a crowded place and still feel alone in it. It helped me come home because ten years ago, I came on a plane, back from Iraq, but I didn’t ever truly feel like I came home. With the Boot Campaign, the health and wellness program, I feel like I’ve finally started that journey home.”

So Raley wants to show other struggling veterans there is help.

“I’m driven to do this because I do believe there are countless lives at stake. The way I see this ride, it’s a beam from a lighthouse. This light, I’m hoping to get it shining bright enough to reach all the dark crevices where all these veterans have felt like they needed to isolate themselves to function again. And I want to guide them back to society and let them understand that they’re not broken people.

In August, Raley will ride from New York to Florida, 1500 miles in 14 days, to let his light shine.

“I feel like no matter what, I have to keep going and I can’t quit because I need to get this message out there.

So each day, Raley rides the country roads thinking of others that he hopes to inspire.

“I can feel the joy and happiness of being with my family, being with friends and not feeling like I’m longing to go back to Iraq where, for that time, I felt like I was where I belonged.

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