A San Diego-area veteran who lost both of his legs while fighting in Afghanistan is hand-cycling to Arlington, Virginia, on a 52-day journey to raise money for charity.
Toran Gaal, of Escondido, started his journey Monday in downtown San Diego for his Ride Across America.
"We were actually joking around about it a year and a half ago, a year ago," Gaal said.
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His fiancee helped bring the idea to life, he added.
Gaal will bike from San Diego to Arlington to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which benefits injured veterans. The fund assisted his own family in the months and years that followed his his injury nearly four years ago. Semper Fi bought the bike he will be using to ride across the country.
"What inspired me is just to pay it forward," Gaal said.
All of the money he raises will directly benefit the fund.
On June 26, 2011, Gaal was on his third deployment in Afghanistan when he stepped on a 12-pound pressure IED and lost both of his legs. In the two months after his injury, he remained in a coma. He also suffered a severe brain injury as a result of the blast and lost 30 percent of his brain.
Now, he hopes to stop in each city and talk to veterans about his journey.
"If someone can be at end’s wit and sees someone that has had adversity, and seen them thrive, hopefully it will touch their hearts," Gaal said.