POSTED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 3:36pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 7:41pm
KILLEEN, TX — Day 3 of the Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge was much shorter in mileage than previous days, but certainly not much sweeter. After traveling 190 miles in two days, one would think that 44 miles would be easy, right? Wrong!
With sore legs, strained backs, and fatigue setting in, the group of injured veterans cycled from Georgetown to Killeen on Tuesday.
After being surrounded by heroes every day on this ride, sometimes a few really stand out. Tuesday was no exception.
Meet Matt Cooke. Meet a hero.
Matt is a survivor of the Fort Hood Massacre. Today, he rode his bike to Killeen - the place where he faced evil and his near-death experience some five years ago.
We met this afternoon after finishing the day's ride, because he was asking me if I was okay. My ankle had been taped during the ride because of some achilles tendon pain. I told him I was pushing through the pain and doing okay. That's when Matt said he knew about pain, and hospitals, especially in this area. He opened up and told me about the day that he nearly lost his life. Matt said, "I'm a Fort Hood survivor."
Matt was inside the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood the day Nidal Hasan opened fire, killing 13 people and wounding 32.
Matt had already survived two deployments, and he was simply waiting for a ride when Hasan started firing. Matt quickly noticed that his non-commissioned officer standing in front of him was bleeding from his chest, so he jumped on top of him to keep him from being shot more times.
Matt took five bullets protecting his NCO. He was shot in the back of the head, the upper back, and his torso. He woke up in a hospital after receiving nearly a dozen pints of blood and undergoing major surgery. Several years later, Matt suffers, not only the physical injuries, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and short-term memory loss. He is unable to work or go to school due to the memory loss, so he spends his days volunteering for the American Red Cross in his native North Carolina. He was medically retired from the Army last year.
Matt believes the massacre at Fort Hood should be classified an act of terrorism. He said he does not receive certain benefits because it's still classified as "violence in the workplace." He hopes to get that changed and he is working with his congressman to make that happen.
Cycling not only helps Matt with his physical fitness, but it also helps him with his resilience and perspective.
Matt said that participating in Ride 2 Recovery challenges helps him realize he can accomplish even more. "While I'm riding in the challenges and I see the other guys with amputations, paralysis, and other severe injuries completing the rides and still smiling; I realize that I can do even more," said Matt.
On Wednesday morning, we will cycle through Fort Hood, the place Matt almost lost his life.
He's ready. He's brave. He's courageous.
Matt is a hero!
Read more about Matt Cooke here: