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Staff Sgt. Marc Esposito: You Have To Want To Get Better
In the early summer of 2010, a special group of cyclists — some on regular road bicycles, and a few riding specialized cycles — experienced America in a very close-up and personal way.
A core team of nearly 20 men and women left San Francisco, CA, on May 22, 2010, and traversed nearly 4,000 miles across the American continent, arriving in Virginia Beach, VA., on July 24.
The event was the Sea To Shining Sea Ride, to “honor the courage of America’s military, recognize the strength of the American spirit, and to challenge the common perceptions of athletes.” All the riders shared a fundamental qualification — each had lost some aspect of their physical function, either in war, from an accident, or from disease.
And through extensive media coverage of the historic journey, Americans from coast to coast had the opportunity to marvel at the powerful message these riders conveyed about overcoming adversity.
The event also attracted thousands of local supporters, some who rode with the team for a few hours on their own bikes. Actor and comedian Robin Williams, for example, rode with the team on the opening day of the ride in San Francisco.
The Sea to Shining Sea cyclists:
- traveled 3,687 miles, averaging up to 70 miles a day.
- ascended a combined 110,470 feet of elevation.
- passed through more than a dozen states and Washington, D.C.
- from sea level on both coasts, reached altitudes of 11,312 feet crossing the mountains.
- rested for 11 of 64 days on the road, and stayed in 53 hotels (where, it was reported, they forgot cell phones, wallets, keys and even spare legs).
- were rained on, snowed in, sunburned, windswept, frozen and baked.
Staff Sgt. Marc Esposito, who was one of the most outspoken participants, was well qualified for the trip. Esposito was a member of an Air Force special tactics squadron in southeastern Afghanistan. In May, 2009, he was manning a machine gun in the back of a Humvee when the vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb.
“I was operating in Afghanistan as a combat controller in support of an Army special operations team,” Esposito said. “We were going after the bad guys when we hit an IED, (improvised explosive device). I was in the rear of the vehicle, where the concentrated blast came from. I was instantly catapulted from the vehicle and left unconscious. Everyone in the vehicle was thrown out.
“When the special operations medical technician found me, he said I was on fire, had no heartbeat and wasn’t breathing,” he said. “My legs and back were broken, and a lot of my teeth were smashed. I also suffered a traumatic brain injury.”
In fact, one of Esposito’s legs was blown wide open, and both legs were crushed from the knees down. It took Esposito a year in military hospitals to learn how to walk and function more or less normally again.
Esposito, a former triathlete, says the physical demands of special forces training helped him survive the explosion. He added that mental toughness developed in the military also helped him recover.
We mentioned at the beginning that some of the riders rode special bikes. One of those riders was Rory McCarthy, one of the few civilians on the ride, and at 56 one of the older riders. McCarthy has suffered from gradual atrophy of his leg muscles most of his life. Unable to ride a regular bicycle, McCarthy made the trek on a low-riding, 27-speed recumbent “hand cycle.” You got that right. McCarthy propelled himself up the 11,300-foot Monarch Pass in the Colorado Rockies, across the Great Plains, and all the way to the surf in Virginia Beach, using only the strength of his arms.
McCarthy says it’s nice to be able to show his 11-year-old son that “even though you’re dealing with these physical challenges, you can still get out there … and accomplish something that’s important to you.”
Former Marine Major Van Brinson, Chief Operating Officer of World T.E.A.M. Sports (T.E.A.M. stands for The Exceptional Athlete Matters) addressed the group on the final night. “You go home and you remember this ride. You let everyone know that they too can achieve unimaginable goals. You let them know that they can reach higher, ride faster and travel further than anyone thought.”
Staff Sgt. Esposito sums it up, and it’s all about attitude and purpose: “Medical technology and physicians can take you only so far. You have to want to take the therapy, and you have to want to get better. It’s that mind-set, that positive motivation, that’s going to get you through.”
At Novus Medical Detox Center, our patients are on their own grueling journey of recovery. We admire their positive motivation, we strive to help them reach higher and travel further than anyone thought. And we totally support their positive motivation to get through detox and recover their lives.
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