PORTLAND – Three veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan set off on a cross-country bicycle trek from the Old Port on Sunday to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization that supports wounded soldiers.

The trio ended their fifth year of military service last week and set out on the 4,000-mile journey to Los Angeles to raise awareness of the program.

“This is our way of giving back and saying thank you to the men and women we served alongside, who were not as lucky as us,” said Capt. Pete Phipps of Hudson, Ohio. “They need the help.”

The program provides support to severely wounded soldiers to help them heal, both physically and emotionally.

The three soldiers involved in the fundraiser spent more than 40 months in the combat zones in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. They know first hand the toll the war has taken on its soldiers.

In 2008, Phipps was deployed to serve in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

Phipps, Capt. Joel Glover and Capt. Daniel Marques all graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2005. Soon after, Glover was deployed to Iraq to lead a platoon in northwest Baghdad. When he returned home, he toured Alaska and pursued adventures in skiing, climbing, fishing, camping and biking. In 2008, Glover’s unit returned to Iraq.

Marques, of Corona, Calif., spent most of 2006 in Iraq and 2008 in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division as an intelligence officer, platoon leader and executive officer. In between deployments, he did some climbing and hiking.

Before taking off Sunday, Marques said that the three men have planned for the trip for two years. He said the goal is to raise $250,000, and they have already raised $15,000.

“We were the lucky ones,” he said. “There are a lot still recovering from their wounds to get back into society.”

The group of cyclists met at Old Port Wine Merchants on Commercial Street early Sunday. They dipped their wheels in the ocean before being escorted out of the city by two Portland police officers.

Jacques de Villier, who owns the wine and cigar shop, is also a former Air Force intelligence officer. He was asked by a customer to help organize the group’s departure from Portland.

De Villier said the Wounded Warriors Project is a great program. He said he wanted to help to show support for the men and women returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“These kids are so brave,” de Villier said. “They have been through so much. I wanted to do something for these kids who have given so much. It’s traumatic what these soldiers have gone through.” 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]