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Photo Caption: Staff Sgt. Tanner Hoag, center, and teammates pose for a photo at the 101st Airborne Division Memorial in France

August 28, 2014
Ms. Kyrene Resel (Leonard Wood)

Staff Sgt. Tanner Hoag of the Fort Leonard Wood's Warrior Transition Unit was selected to take part in the Normandy Challenge that was sponsored by the Ride 2 Recovery.

Ride 2 Recovery is designed to improve the health and wellness of healing heroes worldwide by providing a life-changing experience that can impact their lives forever, according to the Ride 2 Recovery's mission statement.

"I originally wanted to become involved with Ride 2 Recovery because of how supportive they are toward the recovery of our veterans. My first ride was at the Memorial Challenge this year, and I made so many new friends that supported me through the ride and provided an open ear to my problems that I was going through," Hoag said.

The Normandy Challenge allowed the selected participants to ride 300 miles through French villages, cities and watch the end of the Tour de France.

The purpose of this particular challenge was to see the different places by cycling, and to help promote healing. The healing aspect could be anything from talking to others who are going through the same issues, taking in views, which would help participants forget the problems, and meeting new friends, according to Hoag.

There were approximatey 120 participants with more than 30 support personnel. The Riders were from the U.S., Germany and France.

"I wanted to be involved in the Normandy Challenge ride in particular because I knew it would be special being able to go over to France and tour the hollowed grounds that our forefathers fought on during WWII," Hoag said.

In order to be selected for the ride, participants had to be invited. Participants also had to be successful on all previous rides for that year.

"Going into the Normandy Challenge I wanted to make more friends and talking really helped my social skills on the previous challenge I completed, so I wanted to continue that on this challenge, too. I also had a goal to ride the entire way and not use the rest vehicle. I accomplished that goal and rode the entire way," Hoag added.

Hoag's favorite memories included having the chance to tour both the Utah and Omaha beaches, and being able to visit the 101st Airborne Division Memorial, which is located in France.

"The trip was so packed with history and friendship. I learned a ton of history and met new friends every day, as well. We always came together at night at our hotels for dinner and ate as an R2R family, so it was encouraged that we try to meet someone new at every meal," Hoag said.

To the Ride 2 Recovery, cycling is more than just a recreational sport; it is an activity that almost any patient can participate in even if they are struggling with mental and/or physical disabilities. The organization helps to design and build bikes that are specific to the individual veteran's needs.