By Debbie Gregory.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a corporal infantry rifleman in 15 Charlie Company with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was badly injured four years ago during his second deployment to Afghanistan. An IED claimed his left leg and severely damaged his right leg. He also sustained a crush injury to the left side of his head and lost part of his brain.
Gaal is currently on a 3,000 mile trek, using a hand cycle, across the U.S. Brian Riley is his one-man support crew.
Riley, a fellow Marine, was on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 when machine gun fire penetrated his left leg, which had to be amputated.
A former athlete, Gaal spent two and a half years in physical therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. It was at Freedom Station, where veterans re-acclimate to civilian life, that he met Riley.
Although they didn’t much care for each other at the beginning, they shared a common goal to compete in adaptive sports. They had something else in common: a desire to support other veterans and their families the way they had been supported by the Semper Fi Fund.
The two veterans began planning a coast-to-coast trip, where Gaal would ride an adapted bike, and Riley would provide vehicular support.
Their journey began on June 1st in San Diego, with plans to arrive in Arlington, Virginia, on August 2nd , where they will visit the Iwo Jima and Marine Corps memorials. At the end of the ride, Gaal will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
To date, Gaal has raised $35,000 of his $40,000 goal, but he wants to raise more.
“I challenge every person in each city we visit to donate $1,” Gaal said.
“Not just for us — for the next generation of warriors who are going to have to endure the hardships we did for recovery.” As Gaal’s website says, “The only limits in life are those we set for ourselves.”
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A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory