Stephen Bush was an Army helicopter mechanic during the Gulf War (“the first one” as he says). It was afterward on a mountain bike in Germany when Bush’s life changed. An accident altered his life but not just because uses a wheelchair now. He became a national service officer for Paralyzed Veterans of America in Tampa. And he’s learned that whatever people used to do, they can still do it, though they may have to do it differently.
It took a while for Bush to take up the sport of handcycling. He only got into the sport about three years ago and has now been racing for a couple years. He’s a member of the Paralyzed Veterans Racing (PVR) team. Soft-spoken and humble, Bush downplays his role as a mentor to guys new to the sport.
“We go out and ride together if they ask me,” Bush said. “I try to teach them about gears and cadence and propelling.”
One of the guys he has mentored is Sam Bell, also injured on a two-wheeled vehicle. Bell, who served in the Marine Corps, was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2012. “Even though I had a “trach” in my neck, I rolled myself onto a handcycle and took off like a shot in the dark,” Bell said.
A novice at the Tampa National Veterans Wheelchair Games, his first competition was also the first event of the Games: handcycling. He said he was nervous getting ready for the 7:30 a.m. event, but as soon as it started, his anxiety left him. He rode Stephen Bush’s old bike.
“I’ve known Steve since I was in a body brace,” Bell said. “He’s a great cyclist but I don’t just go to him for cycling advice. I do ask him about things like pacing but I might ask him about fitness or I might ask him about scripture or just anything. He’s an amazing person. Part of these Games are about connecting with your brothers, Steve is definitely one of those brothers.”
Learn more about the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa
Tim W. Jackson is a freelance writer and editor in Asheville, N.C.