Ride 2 Recovery: Commissary civilians, Fort Lee soldiers welcome Project Hero riders
FORT LEE, Va. – Several years ago, Navy veteran Jonathan Dade was languishing in what he described as a “very dark place” emotionally.
“One of my friends recognized that I was really struggling – depression, suicidal thoughts, and he got me involved with Project Hero,” said Dade, a native of Austin, Texas, who served from 2002 to 2009. “It completely changed my life around, helped me be a better husband, a better parent, more involved at work, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m here today.”
On June 1, Dade and 49 other bicyclists arrived at the Defense Commissary Agency headquarters on Fort Lee, Virginia, completing their three-day, 200-mile Project Hero “Ride 2 Recovery” event.
The rides are part of Project Hero’s peer-to-peer networking, physical and mental support system that uses cycling to help veterans and first responders in their recovery from the mental wounds linked to post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Since its start in 2008, the organization has logged more than 30,000 bicycling miles in six countries.
“We have a great partnership with DeCA that we’ve had for perhaps the past five years,” said John Wordin, president and founder of Project Hero. “All of the DeCA employees that are here, we appreciate what you guys do for the service members on the military bases across the country and across the world.”
DeCA’s connection to Ride 2 Recovery grew from a commissary cause promotion where a percentage of sales were donated to Project Hero, said Bill Avery, director of global military sales for Frito Lay. Over the past four years, Frito Lay has donated about $100,000.
“We are incredibly honored to do so,” said Avery of the DeCA-specific promotions to Project Hero. “This will be the fifth year we’ve done it and it has been very successful. The commissaries support it, and at the same your consumers know the purchase leads to a charitable donation.”
The ride began May 30 in Richmond, Virginia, where they rode for 52 miles. On May 31 they rode 94 miles and finished in Williamsburg, and on June 1 returned west to Fort Lee. Participants are mostly wounded warriors, who ride for free, along with public riders who pay a $4,000 fee to cover the cost of the ride, and active duty military, non-injured veterans, or VA employees who receive a 50 percent discount.
At the conclusion of their ride, the cyclists were treated to a lunch inside DeCA headquarters, where they rested and cooled off from the 90-degree heat.
Michael Dowling, DeCA’s deputy director and COO, led a contingent of post leaders who welcomed the cyclists and praised their efforts in supporting veterans and first responders.
“We appreciate the opportunity to host you today,” Dowling said. “We certainly admire your commitment to what you’ve been able to accomplish, and we’re proud of our association with companies like Frito-Lay that has supported your efforts.”
Paul Wolf, a rider and a Marine Corps veteran who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, enjoys meeting veterans who share some of the same challenges. “The overall message of this ride is that ‘No vets are alone,’” the Pennsylvania native said. “Once we make a connection we have a large social network that we can reach out to somebody and talk to about our problems.”
To learn more about Project Hero, go to their website at https://projecthero.org/.
Note: To see photos of the Ride 2 Recovery Project Hero event, go to