- Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Camaraderie is a big part of the lives of service members. Spending time in uniform and away from uniform with fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen helps build trust and reliance on each other. That bond is just as important as service members leave service and join the civilian world.

Organizations like Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) bring veterans together to not only rekindle that camaraderie but also create new layers of support. One way WWP goes about that: motorcycle rides.

“Sharing the open road with other warriors is definitely a form of therapy,” said Dozer Reed, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and Army National Guard. Dozer suffered a spinal cord injury in a vehicle crash in Iraq in 2005. Last summer, he joined a group of veterans to ride across the Great Plains toward South Dakota. Together, the group rode nearly 3,000 miles, starting in Texas, with stops along the way in New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.

“We overcame challenges together, we rode through extreme heat and hail on the same day, we ate meals together, we camped together. The key to everything: we did it together.”

The group included serious motorcycle enthusiasts and some still new to the experience.

Kattathu Johnson is an Army National Guard veteran. She had limited time on a motorcycle before signing up for the cross-country ride.

“I was extremely nervous and excited at the same time. I had never rode my motorcycle longer than three hours, but I felt safe being around my military family. I knew they had my six, and I had full trust in them.”

Along the journey, she became close with her fellow veterans and leaned on them for support across the Great Plains.

“They made sure I had everything needed for the ride and treated me like a little sister. They were the ones who turned my nervousness into happiness.”

She also learned to open up about her encounters while deployed to Iraq — sharing some stories for the first time.

“The trip was very memorable, and I learned so much more about myself and how to deal with the things I was going through.”

In South Dakota, Kattathu, Dozer, and other warriors joined veterans from all eras in Sturgis. Motorcycles were lined up for several veteran motorcycle rides, including one to Mount Rushmore. Warriors had the chance to see the massive monument to some of the most influential leaders in American history.

Another warrior on the ride, Harvey Paige, watched as the group of veterans became closer throughout the ride.

“The ride was great. I met some great people who are struggling with the same issues that I am. The ride brought us together and allowed us to experience a journey together.”

Harvey, an Army veteran, knows firsthand the therapeutic benefits of being on a motorcycle.

“The sense of freedom. You can just ride, whether by yourself or in a group, preferably a group. But when you have the wind blowing in your face and the feel of the road under you, you crack the throttle and you feel the power. It’s just the freedom you get.”

WWP knows the importance of bringing warriors together. There is an understanding combat veterans share that creates comfort and facilitates healing. Because warriors can relate, they also learn from one another about the transition to civilian life and the programs and services that can help. WWP’s free services in mental health, career counseling, and long-term rehabilitative care change lives.

Dozer is a great example of the impact WWP has. Through WWP outdoor mental health workshops, his journey found new meaning. Through connections with other veterans, his outlook became more positive.

“I don’t do this just for me,” Dozer said. “I know what it’s like to be by yourself. It takes an entire community to heal a warrior — family, friends, and all the people who are around on a daily basis. You’ve got to cling to that hope and move forward. If you share that contagious positivity with them, it’s much easier to move forward.”

Dozer now serves as a peer mentor to other warriors in his home state of Louisiana. The lessons he learned help countless warriors in their recoveries. We want warriors to live the logo — by becoming the warrior carrying their fellow veteran in their time of need. Dozer and other warriors did so to help Kattathu. Now she can help other veterans heal.

Learn about how WWP is transforming the way America’s injured veterans are empowered, employed, and engaged in our communities at https://wwp.news/GetConnected. Contact: Rob Louis Public Relations, rlouis@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.627.0432

About Wounded Warrior Project: Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more: http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org/about-us.

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