ARLINGTON, Va. — After two months and over 3,800 miles of pedaling a handcycle across the country, Marine veteran Toren Gaal reached his final destination at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington Sunday.
Gaal lost both of his legs when an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up under his feet while at war four years ago. He spent months in a coma in Bethesda after the explosion and after receiving help from groups like the Semper Fi Fund, Gaal wanted to give back.
“We tried to talk him, I don’t want to say ‘out’ of this experience,” says Kathy Wise, senior manager for the Semper Fi Fund. “But, we were really encouraging him to think about what he was going to do and he said, ‘I’m determined and I want to do this for the Semper Fi Fund. You have given me so much and I want to give back to you.'”
Gaal and fellow Marine veteran and amputee Brian Riley began their journey June 1 in San Diego. Riley followed Gaal in a support van through the entire journey. After 3,800 miles and dozens of cities, Gaal and Riley reached the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington to a crowd of supporters.
“It’s our duty now as Americans and veterans from our era to pay it forward to the next generation so we don’t have a relapse of what happened 40 years ago,” Gaal said after arriving in Arlington.
Gaal’s cross country journey raised over $42,000 in support of the Semper Fi Fund.