JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A cycling event focused on rehabilitation and healing, the Wounded Warrior Project's "Soldier Ride" provides an opportunity for veterans to combat depression, and the group will be traveling almost 50 miles this weekend around Jacksonville.
Fifty injured veterans are taking part in the ride this year, and based on their individual needs, they are getting fitted for different bikes before embarking on a weekend of physical and mental healing.
Getting back on a bike again, or getting back into civilian life, isn't as easy with new challenges. What many see on the outside are visible injuries, but for some veterans, it's the invisible wounds that add more stress to their everyday.
"I suffered a brain injury and I have PTSD, and one of the classic symptoms from that is that you fall out of love with the things that you used to love. I used to be an avid biker, but I haven't been on one in years," Wounded Warrior Scott Pillath (pictured below) said.
Pillath spent 22 years in the Army and four years in the Navy and joined the Wounded Warriors a couple of years ago. This is his first Soldier Ride.
"I worked in psychological warfare, the infantry, nuclear, biological, chemical warfare, military police, and I ended in logistics," Pillath said. "I'm really looking forward to trying to get that love back and getting back into fitness as far as my body will allow me."
He and 49 other veterans will share a weekend getting to know each other while also facing their fears physically and mentally, taking a 44-mile journey together by bike.
"It's important for their rehabilitation, it's an opportunity for them to integrate back into their communities, empower them, build their confidence again, to do whatever they want to do moving forward. To do whatever their goals may be," Soldier Ride Manager Meghan Wagner (pictured below) said.
It's more than just goals for Pillath, it's about spending time with the people who truly understand him from the inside out.
"There's a lot to be said for that, there are a lot of, so there's a lot of good-hearted people out there who make donations to the program and try to help us find our peace again, but nobody knows us like the other guys we served with that are going through the same things that we go through," Pillath said.
The public is invited to come out and cheer on the veterans as they ride through Jacksonville.