On July 28, veterans, bikers and supporters will be riding motorcycles from Troy to Clifton Park to support one of their own in the Upstate New York Wounded Vet Run.
“We have this problem where everyone puts a flag on their house, but then when [veterans] come back, we don’t do anything,” said Eric Remington. He’s a member of the local American Infidels Veterans Motorcycle Club, which supports veterans with events like the Upstate Wounded Vet Run.
The group is coming together with Operation At Ease, an organization dedicated to bringing together rescue dogs and veterans who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to raise money for Private First Class Paul Miosek, a disabled Scotia veteran.
Born in Little Falls, Miosek always wanted to be in the military.
“Ever since I was a kid, I mean when I’d be writing my wish list from Santa Claus, I was asking for an army uniform,” Miosek said. His father was in the national guard and his grandfather fought in World War II so he had plenty of footsteps to follow in.
In 1989, at 19 years old, he enlisted in the army. After graduating from basic training, Miosek was sent to serve in the infantry in Germany, shortly before the Gulf War.
About a year and a few months after arriving, Miosek almost lost everything.
He was on guard duty, after a day of transporting Bradley vehicles. He was making sure the top hatches of the vehicles were closed. Though there were power cables close to the top of the vehicles, Miosek was told they would be turned off so he could safely check them.
“Somebody left them on,” Miosek said.
While he was on top of the vehicle, the back of his head tapped a power cord.
“We weren’t wearing any kevlar helmets at the time, we were wearing a soft cap, which is like a baseball cap. There’s really no protection there so I had 15,000 volts go through my body,” Miosek said. He was in a coma for six weeks and was shuffled to a few different specialized hospitals before he was sent to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland.
“When I came out of the coma I found out I had no legs. I was completely paralyzed for three months. My left lung collapsed,” Miosek said, “I had just turned 22.”
Recovery seemed almost impossible, especially because his family wan’t close and couldn’t come to visit him more than once or twice. In total, he was hospitalized for two years, a month and 16 days.
“My first year out I pretty much lived like a hermit,” Miosek said. Eventually, he decided to go to college and he enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College.
“I said ‘I’m going to go to college, not to learn anything, just to find a woman,’ ” Miosek said.
Thus, he met Tara, his wife and mother of their three sons: Ethan, Justin and Zachary. His family is closely knit. Miosek works part-time, while Tara homeschools their three children, who are all on the autism spectrum. They’re an active family; skiing together and playing all sorts of adaptive sports.
On a semi-annual basis, Miosek participates in the New England Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, among other events. It’s connected him with other veterans as well as his family. Despite losing his legs, Miosek does everything from downhill skiing to wheelchair fencing to tae kwon do to kayaking. He also goes into schools in the area to talk about his experiences and about adaptive sports.
“They can see that I’m disabled and I can still be active and still compete in sports,” Miosek said.
While he’s found a way to make sports adaptive, adapting his home has been more of a struggle. When the family first moved into their home in 2001, they had a ramp installed and were able to receive a grant from the VA hospital to make the home at least accessible for Miosek to get around in his wheelchair.
But that was 17 years ago.
The ramp and deck need to be replaced and there are a few other much-needed updates and repairs that have been put on the back burner for years, said Miosek.
When he first got the call that the Upstate New York Wounded Vet Run wanted to support him and raise money for all these needs, his immediate reaction was confusion.
“I don’t know why I was picked for this. . . It’s like ‘I’m just me. This should be something for other people,' ” Miosek said.
That’s the reaction of most veterans, said Eddie Reynolds, a member of the local American Infidels group and an assistant trainer with Operation At Ease.
“All vets are afraid they’re going to take from other vets,” Reynolds said.
The Wounded Vet Run is a national event, one that Remington and Reynolds wanted to organize on a local level. They held their first local run last year and they were able to raise thousands of dollars for another veteran. This year, they’re hoping to raise $20,000 for Miosek, which Tara said would be a huge blessing.
“I’m confused [and] excited,” Miosek said.
The Upstate New York Wounded Vet Run begins at noon at Brunswick Harley in Troy and ends at Trick Shots in Clifton Park, where there will be music, food, raffles and vendors. Veterans, bikers and anyone who is interested can sign up for the run. Those who don’t have a bike, but want to participate, can come to Trick Shots after the run.
It’ll be a time for people to meet veterans and, as Joni Bonilla said: “Just talk to them.” Bonilla, who founded Operation At Ease, said that so many people thank veterans but don’t take the time to get to know them.
“It’s [about] changing the perception . . . we have to take care of them,” Bonilla said.
Tickets are $20 for riders, $10 for passengers and $20 for walk-ins. There are coin drops around the Capital Region, but organizers are still looking for business sponsors and direct donations.
“People don’t realize just how much a little bit can help,” Bonilla said.
For more information call 518-227-0643 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.