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Wounded veterans ride in Florida Keys, swim with dolphins

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In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, retired U.S. Army medic Rachael Rodgers is towed by dolphins Cayo and Santini Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, at Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Fla. Rodgers, who had her left leg amputated below the knee, and 42 other wounded military veterans interacted with dolphins as a facet of the Florida Keys Soldier Ride, a trip through the Florida Keys to Key West, Fla., riding adaptive bicycles down some segments of the Keys Overseas Highway. The event, that ends Sunday, Jan. 12, is organized by the Wounded Warrior Project. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — Interacting with dolphins and cycling down segments of the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys is providing therapy for 43 wounded military veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers swam with the dolphins at Marathon’s Dolphin Research Center Friday, after traversing the highway in the Upper Keys using special adaptive bicycles.

They shared dolphin kisses and got flipper shakes and dorsal fin pulls.

Organized by the Wounded Warrior Project with help from the Keys community, the Florida Keys Soldier Ride aims to inspire wounded vets while raising funds for those still recovering in American military hospitals.

Retired U.S. Army medic Rachael Rodgers, who had her left leg amputated below the knee, first participated in the experience in 2015.

“They’re (the dolphins) very in tune with their senses and in tune with our senses, and so I think that also helps us because it helps ease us,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers hopes the event sparks interest from other veterans recovering from combat injuries who may be considering joining a Wounded Warrior Project-sponsored event.

The Soldier Ride will continue Saturday from Naval Air Station Key West through the streets of the Southernmost City in the Continental U.S. The event ends Sunday.

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