U.S. Army veteran Wesley Leon-Barrientos stands in front of an
AC-130W Stinger II on the flightline at Cannon Air force Base, N.M.,
March 22, 2012. Leon-Barrientos is a double-amputee and three-time
Purple Heart recipient from his service during Operation Iraqi
Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (3/25/2012) - While on a coast-to-coast
bicycle ride raising suicide awareness, two veterans visited Cannon
Air Force Base, N.M., March 22, to share some inspiring words with
western Air Commandos.
Their cross-country trip, which began
Feb. 19, in Bakersfield, Calif., will ultimately lead them to the
Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., in time for Memorial Day.
They have allotted 100 days to bike 4,163 miles to the capitol to
commemorate the 30th anniversary of the construction of the wall.
"This trip is to demonstrate our continued support of
military members and veterans across all services," said Wesley
Leon-Barrientos, U.S. Army veteran. "It is an added bonus getting
the opportunity to meet so many amazing service members while
raising awareness for a great cause along the way."
is a former infantryman member with the Army's 101st Airborne
Division. While serving on his second tour in December 2007, he
suffered injuries due to explosives and lost both of his legs. He is
a three-time Purple Heart recipient.
"People can easily see
superficial wounds, the psychological issues are a lot more
difficult to spot-out for treatment," said Leon-Barrientos. "We want
to ignite a spirit of unity as well as raising awareness about how
serious suicide prevention is, especially for wounded vets."
Recent military statistics from a Center for a New American Security
Suicide report show the highest rate of suicides per conflict since
Sept. 11. Averages of 18 veterans are reported to have committed
suicide every day.
"Wes is an outstanding American providing the overall
force with vital information," said Chief Master Sgt.
Matthew Caruso, 27th Special Operations Wing command chief.
"Veterans and airmen alike should witness and aspire to his
courage and bravery."
While touring the Cannon
flightline, Leon-Barrientos reflected on his life's journey
through actively serving, to his injuries and back to his
present line of work spreading inspiration, hope and
"I remember waking up in my hospital bed
without my legs," said Leon-Barrientos. "I lost so many
amazing brothers on that tour, but I only remember feeling
fortunate for having received another chance at life. I,
unlike my brothers, would be able to see and hold my family
again. It motivated me to experience more out of life, to
take bigger chances and to make a difference in the lives of
Leon-Barrientos told medical providers that
his goal was to walk in three months and run within six
months after his injuries. They explained that the
likelihood of that was very slim. He exceeded expectations
however, walking within three and a half months and running
two weeks before his self-imposed six-month goal.
"Everyone is able to hold their own by whatever unique
capabilities they are afforded," said Leon-Barrientos. "I'd
like to think that adapting to life's adversities and
shortcomings is just something I've been blessed with."
By USAF Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal
Special Operations Command
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