BARSTOW • Focused on their mission, the two Iraqi War Veterans rode side-by-side through the desert, peering under their helmets as they moved toward their destination — Washington, D.C.
The former Marines, Jeremy Staat and Wesley Barrientos, stopped in Barstow Wednesday afternoon during their Wall to Wall cross country bike tour that began in Sunday in Bakersfield, and should see them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on May 28.
Staat, 35, a former player with the National Football League, said the ride is part of his foundation's goal of bringing awareness to the many issues surrounding veterans.
"We will visit as many veteran memorials, schools, churches, veteran posts, sporting events, and speaking engagements as time and logistics allow," said Staat. "This will likely extend our overall mileage well into the 4,200 mile range."
Staat said the Memorial Day arrival in Washington, D.C., will celebrate the wall's 30th anniversary, and will honor the 25th anniversary of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride into the nation's capital.
The duo departed from the eight-paneled Wall of Valor in Bakersfield, which was dedicated to honor the veterans of Kern County.
Barrientos, who lost his legs nearly four years ago during his third tour of duty in Iraq, will be riding a hand-powered cycle.
Having been injured during each of his tours, Barrientos, 27, received Purple Hearts, five Army Commendation Medals and two Army Good Conduct Medals.
"We had to reroute our trip through Barstow to keep the guys safe and not block traffic," said Heather Harro, director of the foundation. "We had to remove Apple Valley from the trip; hopefully, that will be our only change."
After arriving in Bartow, Staat's team of eight found a hotel, grabbed a meal and headed to Fort Irwin for a short visit.
Harro, a mother of six and former radio talk show host, said coordinating the volunteer staff and drivers for multiple vehicles has been a blessing.
"These guys are the real deal and they don't give up," Harro said. "They are an inspiration to me and they will be to the people they meet."
The group will be heading to Twentynine Palms Thursday morning.