Bicycling Therapeutic for Iraq War Veteran José Santiago

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Iraq War veteran José Santiago uses cycling for fitness and therapy. He rides several long distance bicycling events each year, including the 2013 Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Iraq Veteran José Santiago on his bike.

Iraq Veteran José Santiago trains for the Warrior 100K Ride at Green Mountain, near Denver, Colorado. Photograph by Brian Gliba.

World T.E.A.M. Sports supports José Santiago and other veteran athletes to use athletics to overcome obstacles and support their rehabilitation.

Retired Iraq War veteran José Santiago is serious about his bicycling.

Medically discharged from the Army in 2006 following seven years of service, Santiago has ridden nearly 4,000 miles on his road and mountain bikes since 2010. Diagnosed with PTSD and TBI during his deployment in Iraq, the former Army Medic understands the benefits of outdoor physical activities.

“It has been a therapy for me and gets me out of my house. It challenges the body and mind,” said the Centennial, Colorado veteran.

Deployed in Iraq from 2003 through 2004, Santiago did his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia and his medical training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. During his service, Santiago was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, near Colorado Springs.

A participant in the two-day, 100-mile April, 2013 Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports, Santiago also was invited to participate in the May 23-25 Warrior 100K Ride in Texas with former President George W. Bush. The enthusiasm and dedication of the president at the Bush Center event left a strong impression. “Wow, he can ride,” Santiago said. “It was hard to keep up with him and he is a great human being; and funny!”

Riding daily with the president and 14 other veterans on the Bush family ranch near Crawford, Santiago said the group had “lots of interaction with the President.” The most memorable occasion of the three day event, however, was the private veteran dinner with the President and his wife Laura at the ranch one evening. “It was very emotional.”

For veterans with disabilities who are considering applying for future Warrior 100K rides, Santiago is encouraging – “Take advantage of it because it is an honor, train for it because it is a little hard.”

Photographer and retired veteran Brian Gliba, who met Santiago at a recent Soldier Ride, discovered they both lived in the Denver area, so began riding and working out with him. Taking numerous digital photographs of the veteran for Project Wounded Ego, Gliba reports that “José is a great guy. He tells me he looks and feels like Captain America in the first photo I did for him.” This photo is displayed on the Project Wounded Ego website, and in a large framed image that hangs over Santiago's fireplace.

“I owe José full credit for getting me out of my depression slump,” Gliba said. “If it wasn't for his tenacity and friendship, I might still be a slug in my bed.”

Van Brinson, World T.E.A.M. Sports Chief Operations Officer, said that veterans like Santiago are role models for others. “We at World T.E.A.M. Sports support José Santiago and other veteran athletes to use athletics to overcome obstacles and support their rehabilitation.”

Looking forward to future inclusive riding opportunities with World T.E.A.M. Sports, Santiago reports he has participated in several long bicycling rides these last three years. Many of the events have been with the non-profit, California-based Ride2Recovery, including rides in Colorado, the 9/11 ten year anniversary ride from New York to the Pentagon and a ride in Virginia. He also has participated in the 2012 and 2013 Ride the Rockies in Colorado, the challenging Triple Bypass in central Colorado’s high mountains, with over 11,000 feet of climbing, and Soldier Rides from the Wounded Warrior Project in San Diego and San Antonio.

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Richard Rhinehart
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