by PAT MURDOCK
Special to the Mercury
American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, set to perform a benefit concert for the injured veterans participating in the third annual Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge this evening in San Marcos, just may have attracted a rival for the center of attention on the riders’ first overnight stop on their ride through central Texas.
Ride 2 Recovery officials announced late Friday that Sgt. Sal Giunta, the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, would be joining the injured veterans and their guests for the 6 p.m. dinner at the San Marcos Conference Center at Embassy Suites. The event is hosted by San Marcos American Legion Post and Auxiliary 144. The dinner will be followed by a special benefit concert featuring 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks and his band. Hicks’ performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets still available may be purchased for cash only at the door.
Sgt. Giunta will join more than 200 wounded U.S. veterans and support personnel as will depart the Center for the Intrepid at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio around 10 a.m. March 28 to start the six-day, 350-mile ride through central Texas with overnight stops in San Marcos, Austin, Ft. Hood, Waco, Cleburne and Arlington.
The cyclists are expected to begin arriving in San Marcos on March 28 around 3 p.m. Area residents are invited to greet them upon their arrival at Embassy Suites.
Sgt. Giunta, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, became the first living person to receive the United States Armed Forces’ highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, for actions that occurred since the Vietnam War. The Iowa native was cited for saving the lives of members of his squad on Oct. 25, 2007 during the War in Afghanistan. He received the medal from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 16, 2010. All of his surviving squad members were present for the ceremony. Sgt. Giunta is the fourth Medal of Honor recipient from the War in Afghanistan
Clearly excited about Giunta’s attendance at the Ride’s San Marcos stop, John Wordin, founder and president of Ride 2 Recovery, said the celebrated war veteran will be present for the injured veterans – not for any personal recognition.
The Ride 2 Recovery, which started in California and now supports cycling events in four states in addition to California and Texas, calls attention to the beneficial results that cycling can have on the recovery and rehabilitation process of injured service men and women.
Says Wordin, “Cycling is something that everyone can do. It is an experience that challenges each rider physically, mentally and emotionally as they set individual goals for their trip. We want to provide them with a physical challenge and a group experience that helps them heal mentally and emotionally.”
In addition to members, friends and families of American Legion Post 144 and Auxiliary Unit 144, members of San Marcos’ Beta Sigma Phi service sorority and representatives from Lockhart and Luling American Legion and Auxiliary posts and units will all be lending a hand to prepare and serve dinner in San Marcos.
Dinner program participants will include Hays County Judge Bert Cobb, himself a veteran, who will lead the pledge of allegiance; the San Marcos Academy Color Guard which will present the colors; and San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero who will welcome riders and guests. Local veteran Alan Cameron will serve as master of ceremonies. San Marcos Post 144 Commander Tom Tvrdik and Auxiliary President Pat Murdock are coordinating local arrangements.
Those attending the concert will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for prize drawings to benefit Ride 2 Recovery.
The highlight of the evening will be the Taylor Hicks concert that will start promptly at 7:30 p.m., immediately following the dinner. The Alabama native’s take on Southern soul, rhythm and blues, country and blues led him to win the coveted American Idol title on May 24, 2006, as more than 36 million watched the popular Fox television show. To learn more about Hicks and what he has been up to since his American Idol win, check out his website at taylorhicks.com.
Tickets are $50 minimum donation for Taylor Hicks’ concert. A VIP reception is available at 6:45 p.m. for a $150 minimum donation.
A cash bar will be available during the evening. For questions about the concert, e-mail email@example.com or call 818-888-7091.
The entire community is invited to welcome the riders to, and to cheer them off from, San Marcos at the Embassy Suites. Riders will depart on Tuesday from Embassy Suites in two groups at 9 and 10 a.m. The route will take them down Hunter Road to San Antonio Street, through the downtown San Marcos area, by the Texas State University campus and out Post Road to Austin. Travis Elementary School students will cheer them on their way as the riders pass by the school.
For more information on local Ride 2 Recovery events, call American Legion Auxiliary President Pat Murdock at 512-353-1943 or American Legion Commander Tom Tvrdik at 512-353-8443.Email | Print
Last night in a private ceremony the key to the City of San Marcos Texas was given to Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt Giunta. It was an honor to meet such a humble soldier and leader of the next greatest generation.