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Jun 25, 2013 4:23 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

'Soldier Ride: The Movie' To Tell Story Of Wounded Warriors

Jun 25, 2013 5:02 PM
An idea hatched in an Amagansett bar years ago—to cycle cross-country in honor of wounded veterans—continues to go the distance, picking up only more steam along the way.Soldier Ride started as a solo endurance ride by East Hampton resident and former Stephen Talkhouse bartender Chris Carney, in 2004. It spanned thousands of miles, raised more than $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, piqued interest, attracted cyclists, boosted soldiers’ strength and spirits, morphed into a series of regional rides, and even went international, with events taking place in Israel, England and Germany.

Now, Soldier Ride is headed for the TV screen.

A new documentary, “Soldier Ride: The Movie,” is in the works. Its premiere is anticipated to take place on the East End next year, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Mr. Carney’s inaugural ride and the 2014 “Soldier Ride: The Hamptons,” the local version of the ever-expanding event.

The Hamptons ride is dedicated to the late U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter of Sag Harbor; this year’s ride, a 30-miler from Amagansett to Sag Harbor and back, is set for Saturday, July 20.

Soldier Ride is intended as an opportunity for Wounded Warriors to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds through cycling and the bonds of service.

“The documentary is by no means just about the ride across America. It’s about the first 10-year history of Soldier Ride,” said Matt Hindra, a co-producer along with Nick Kraus, both of whom live in East Hampton. “Hopefully, this will take on a life of its own, like the event did.”

The two producers are busy sifting through hundreds of hours of footage, molding miles and miles of what often features the backs of cyclists pedaling through the desert, into a concise package that tells the powerful story of the journey.

Along the way are the inspiring tales of triumph, the athletic feats powered by prosthetic limbs, the camaraderie of teammates pulling for one another, post-traumatic stress disorder and lost legs notwithstanding, and even a visit to the White House and handshakes with President Barack Obama.

“We know it’s a great story, and we’re doing our best to tell it as well as we can,” said Mr. Kraus.

Mr. Hindra, 43, and Mr. Kraus, 41, said this week they just finished re-interviewing two of the film’s main characters, Staff Sergeant Ryan Kelly, a retired military officer who lives in Austin, Texas, and Staff Sergeant Heath Calhoun, a Paralympics skier who was the U.S. delegation’s flag-bearer for the 2010 Winter Paralympics Games in Vancouver, Canada, and who is now training for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

Part of the aim in creating the documentary is, like the rides themselves, to help veterans returning from the traumas of combat to connect with their communities.

“We found that if you sit in the house by yourself, you sit in your house by yourself,” explained Mr. Hindra. “If you get out and people know what you’re going through, there tends to be a huge support group for soldiers.”

In another parallel to the rides, the movie and its production are a journey unto itself. Just as Soldier Ride was intended to be a one-time, solo ride, but grew, the movie, too, changes direction.

“It is in the process of evolving,” Mr. Hindra explained.

“It’s an ever better story, albeit a bit more complicated,” said Mr. Kraus, in a separate interview, noting that it no longer has a neat beginning, middle and end, as it would have if the race had been a one-time affair.

“We realized the tremendous rehabilitative effect that the ride had,” said Mr. Carney, now 43 and the owner of Railroad Avenue Fitness, an East Hampton Village gym, describing how the event evolved from a fundraiser to an actual form of rehabilitation, an empowering tool that works largely because of the help of fellow soldiers and supporters.

As a quote in a “Soldier Ride: The Movie” trailer says: “A journey is best measured by friends, not in miles.”

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