By His Side
A paralyzed soldier gets a lift from an old friend
It was hard to tell who was happier: the paralyzed Green Beret who was riding in the sidecar of the motorcycle, or the one driving the custom-made machine.
“Romy and I have been friends, side-by-side, our whole military careers,” says Sgt. 1st Class Enrique “Izzy” Izquierdo, referring to his 13-year friendship with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Romulio “Romy” Camargo. “We used to ride motorcycles together at Fort Bragg.” Both men went through Rangers and then Green Beret training there.
Camargo was paralyzed in September 2008 when he was shot during combat in Afghanistan. Now he is fighting to regain use of his body at James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla. It was there that he began to dream out loud about riding motorcycles again, sharing that wish with Izquierdo as well as with Sgt. Maj. Scotty Neil, another Green Beret chum.
Neil is co-founder of the Post 911 Foundation, which helps veterans and first responders. He went to work raising the thousands of dollars needed to build a special bike and the generosity of bike clubs, first responders and veterans organizations helped the dream become a reality. At this year’s Daytona Bike Week, Camargo was able to guide his wheelchair into a specially built sidecar while Izquierdo drove. As they moved down the road, thousands of Daytona Bike Week enthusiasts cheered.
The bike has a 100-cubic-inch engine and a six-speed transmission. Even more important is the sidecar, large enough to carry Camargo in his wheelchair, along with his breathing apparatus. Air bags beneath the floor make the ride as smooth as possible.
“Romy said, ‘Once they strap me in this sidecar, it’s going to take a sledgehammer to get me out of it,’” says Neil, who rode along as part of a 75-strong Green Beret motorcycle escort. “This is one dose of medicine you can’t prescribe.”
“He loved it. He couldn’t stop smiling,” says Izquierdo. “I don’t know if it was more meaningful to him or to me.”
— Tim Ghianni.