Why Veterans Day Matters: Motorcycle Relief Project

Nov 09, 2021 View Comments by

By Tom Larson

Founder, Motorcycle Relief Project

 

Veterans Day is an official federal holiday that is observed every year on November 11. But why is there a Veterans Day, and why does it matter?

Initially known as Armistice Day, the holiday was first established to commemorate the end of World War I. Congress later changed the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor not only those who fought in World War I but all veterans. Unlike Memorial Day which is intended to honor those who died while serving in the military, the purpose of Veterans Day is to honor every veteran – living or deceased – who served or still serves in any branch of the US military. Only about 7% of American adults today have served in the military, compared to about 18% in 1980. The number of current active-duty military represents less than one percent of all adults in the US.

[Riders explore some of the best of the west coast during their relief rides! Relief Ride 21 in August of 2018 climbed Pikes Peak!]

 

So why is it important that we recognize and honor our veterans? In a word, sacrifice. The sacrifice our veterans make isn’t limited to those who’ve lost their lives or who’ve been physically disabled in combat situations. Every man and woman who’s ever served in the military has sacrificed. Whether they’ve deployed in combat or not, they’ve missed out on many things that civilians enjoy and often take for granted. They’ve missed birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, births and deaths of people they care about. They’ve missed seeing their kids’ first steps, first music recitals, and first senior proms. They’ve sacrificed many of the things that bring deep joy and meaning to the rest of us, and the vast majority do it out of a profound sense of duty and a genuine desire to serve.

As a civilian who runs a nonprofit dedicated to serving veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related issues like depression and anxiety, I’ve heard countless stories that illustrate the sacrifices that our veterans make. Not only have they missed important events in their families, many have experienced unimaginable loss and trauma during their time in the military. For some, it’s unbearable; 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Motorcycle Relief Project (MRP) exists to help veterans who are struggling find relief, camaraderie and coping skills using motorcycles as a vehicle for healing – literally.

 

[Relief Ride 36’s journey through Arizona in March of 2020]

 

Our program (Motorcycle Relief Project) is built around taking veterans on five-day on-and-off-road “Relief Rides” through the mountains of Arizona or Colorado. Veterans are able to experience some epic motorcycle riding during the day, and in the evenings they participate in workshops designed to give them tools and skills for dealing with their injuries. All of this is done in a carefully structured environment where participants can talk about their issues freely with like-minded people who won’t think they’re crazy, broken or dangerous.

 

Joe L. is a veteran who served in the Army for 20 years, which included deploying to Iraq in the early days of the war. Joe was a participant on Relief Ride #39 in October 2020 in Arizona, and had this to say about his experience. “Most of us want meaning and purpose in life, something that is lost when you suffer from PTSD. This week I felt meaning again, and MRP showed me that there’s still purpose out there for me. Please know that your support of MRP has personally made a significant difference in how I contend with my mental health challenges. You’re supporting an organization that has provided my life with peace, fun and healing. Thank you for playing a part in that.”

 

 

[Most of us want meaning and purpose in life, something that is lost when you suffer from PTSD. This week I felt meaning again, and Motorcycle Relief Project showed me that there’s still purpose out there for me. – Joe L., Iraq war veteran]

 

Important stats about veterans

Percent of adults in US who’ve served in military: 7

Percent of adults in US serving in military today: < 1

Veterans who commit suicide each day: 22

 

Click here to donate to the Motorcycle Relief Project this Veterans Day!

 

 

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