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George W. Bush has a new spokes-man

By Chris Vaughn, McClatchy Newspapers –

FORT WORTH, Texas — Retired Marine rifleman and Iraq veteran Eric Elrod had never met a president until this week.

When he shook hands with former President George W. Bush on Thursday, the two took off on a three-day, 100-kilometer mountain bike ride through Palo Duro Canyon State Park outside Amarillo on the Warrior 100K.

“To meet any commander in chief is a big deal, but especially cool to meet your commander in chief who was in office at the time you served,” Elrod said.

Elrod, 29, who lives in far north Fort Worth, is one of 20 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan selected for Bush’s second annual mountain bike ride, which concludes Saturday. The event is part of the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative.

Elrod, a Haltom High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2001 and served two tours in Iraq. On March 26, 2004, as a rifle team leader in Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, he was shot in the right leg. His femur was shattered, ending his military service.

He was medically retired as a corporal and returned to North Texas, where he got a job at Hillwood Development Corp.

His invitation to the Warrior 100K came just a few weeks ago after his three-man team won an adventure race of mountain biking, kayaking and land navigation.

“I don’t view my injury as that severe,” he said, although he has limited range of motion in his hip and knee. “It’s pretty inspiring and impressive to ride with guys who have had traumatic injuries and amputations who still have the capacity and desire to participate in events like this.”

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