Timothy McGill has participated in many cycling events since leaving the Army and moving back to Biloxi.
But three tours in Iraq — two lasting a year each and one of 18 months — left him with a traumatic brain injury and physical problems. He has balance issues, back problems and short-term memory loss.
So he was “pretty stoked and excited” to be receiving a specially made recumbent three-wheeled bike from Ambucs, an organization that makes therapeutic tricycles for disabled children and veterans.
He was one of two Coast veterans receiving bikes Wednesday, thanks to the owner of Adventures Pub and Spirits in Biloxi and the Ole Biloxi Marching Club.
William Murray said receiving his bike was “exciting.”
The retired Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College instructor spent 10 months in Vietnam in the Navy and has a below-the-knee amputation on one leg and shoulder problems that made riding a bike with handlebars difficult.
“That right there is going to be a godsend,” he said, nodding at the bike. “It will let me get out. And my grandkids will love it.”
Greg Iverson, the owner of Adventures, said he had given a small donation to Ambucs about a year ago. Then he began doing more research on the organization and its mission. When the group returned about six months later, he decided instead of just donating some money, he wanted to help donate a bike at a cost of about $1,000.
He put up $500 and reached out to the Ole Biloxi Marching Club for help raising the rest of the money. The group quickly put forward $500, then raised an additional $1,000 for a second bike.
“I just think it’s a wonderful cause,” Iverson said. “We support veterans, police, firefighters, paramedics — the people who serve us.”
Teddy Busic of the Marching Club said members enjoyed participating in causes firsthand rather than simply donating money.
“Anything to help the veterans,” he said.
Rusty David, also of the Marching Club, said “we’ve all lived here by Keesler all our lives, so we have a vested interest. And it’s easy to give back.”
Cycling provides therapeutic benefits for veterans.
It’s low impact and easy on joints, which benefits aging or injured veterans. It helps with balance and allows veterans greater mobility.
For those who may still be readjusting to civilian life, cycling can open up social options. It can be used as rehabilitation or simply for leisure and it benefits stroke patients, those with brain injuries and anyone trying to lose weight and get into condition, said Clint McCready, a VA doctor.
And almost everyone knows how to ride a bike.
So far, about 55 bikes have gone to veterans within the Gulf Coast VA System, which includes the Biloxi VA, said Chris Gable, the administrative officer of rehabilitation medicine. The veterans are selected, medically cleared and trained on how to use the bikes.
The recumbent three-wheeled design makes these bikes particularly safe — you can’t really fall off one — and they can be customized to accommodate a veteran’s wounds.
The bikes are acquired through donations, though, and there is always a need for more, several people said.