Grad student cycles 120 miles in support of service members

Charles Gray, a graduate student in Marymount University’s Public Health Education and Promotion program, recently participated in World T.E.A.M.’s annual Face of America cycling challenge.

Traditionally, the route starts in Arlington, Va., near the Pentagon, and spans over 120 miles to the historic battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., and is completed in two days. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, participants instead joined together via Zoom on April 24 and 25 to complete a similar course.

Gray has been participating in Face of America since 2007, when he received an invite from a colleague. It’s designed to honor the military — veterans and active duty, disabled and able-bodied — and celebrate the American spirit. The two-day cycling challenge unites civilians with both former and current military members, first responders and civilian adaptive athletes from around the world.

“Having spent nearly 20 years in the Navy and Marine Corps as an enlisted medic and infantry officer, as well as working in civilian medicine as an ER technician and pre/post-op open heart surgery ward attendant, my passion was for rehabilitating veteran athletes with disabilities,” Gray shared. 

A lifelong participant in athletics and cycling specifically, Gray found Face of America to be a perfect match. After participating for over a decade, he said he was devastated to find out that the communal ride from Arlington to Gettysburg wouldn’t be taking place this year. 

“The organization attracts a complement of returning riders and new riders annually, which after 14 years feels like a large family reunion,” Gray said. “I was close to heartbroken, but thankful for the opportunity we had to connect on exercise apps, through social media and Zoom to celebrate and encourage one another.”

His team, Strength and Honor, consists of 22 members from around the country who have raised nearly $18,000 this year to support World T.E.A.M.’s efforts to empower service members. Two of his teammates are in the top five for individual fundraising, and the team as a whole has raised more funds than any of the other 36 participating teams.

Photo courtesy of Charles Gray, taken during Face of America 2019.