NYC Firefighters Raise Money for Vets on RAGBRAI

By MacKenzie Elmer WCF Courier

Some of the FDNY riders. Photo WCF Courier

Some of the FDNY riders. Photo WCF Courier

A group of 75 New York City firefighters rode RAGBRAI (Register’s annual Great Bicycle Ride across Iowa) this week to honor the fallen during 9/11 and raise money for disabled veterans.

The figure in their team name, FDNY 343 RIDE, represents the number of firefighters who died the day the World Trade Centers [sic] collapsed.

“We were there the first day of the war,” said Andy Horan, FDNY.

Horan arrived on site when the second tower fell.

“I lost 40 of my friends that day,” he said.

Some of the men strapped pieces of the trade center to their bicycle[s], immortalizing the memories of friends wherever they go.

About 75 firefighters in total camped behind the home of first-time RAGBRAI host Ed Gipper a retired Independence fireman.

“It’s a lot easier knowing I got a lot of brothers and sisters in the fire service here,” Gipper said.

To honor the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, FDNY 343 rode one mile for each lost firefighter, starting in Montauk Point and ending at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Severely injured veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq benefited from more than $60.000 raised by that ride. In the three years of the organization’s existence, FDNY 343 has raised more than $250,000 for veterans.

“There’s no better way to honor 343 brothers than to help veterans.” Horan said.

Some of the fundraised dollars purchased six TrackChairs, all-terrain wheelchairs that are custom-made for each veteran and provide an extreme amount of mobility.

“It gets these guys out hunting, fishing and golfing,” said Horan said [sic]. “They can drag a deer with one of them, they can get out on the beach and tow-cast. It just gets the solider [sic] out doing normal things.”

And every dollar they raise goes toward the soldier. No “red tape,” said Greg Gatto, a New York firefighter born in Mt. Pleasant.

RAGBRAI was sort of a homecoming for Gatto, while the other coastal visitors reveled in Midwestern hospitality.

The team stayed with a local fire department in each town, spreading their message and raising more than $6,500 in T-shirt sales and donations.

“That’s what’s great about RAGBRAI, “ said Duane Marcy, FDNY. “We come together, and it’s just brotherhood.”

Marcy’s son Evan, an Afghanistan War veteran, accompanied the team as a support rider on RAGBRAI. He lost his leg during his service but recalled the firefighters who visited and comforted soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Ds.

“They’ve always been really supportive of the military. It’s the type of organization that helps each other out,” Evan Marcy said.

Donations to FDNY 343 RIDE can be mailed to 1155 Washington Ave. Bronx, NY 10456, or donate online at fdny343ride.com.

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