By Jake Hughes
Sturgis, South Dakota is a veritable holy land for motorcycle enthusiasts. Every year for the past 77, the tiny town of Sturgis swells in population for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
And while hundreds of people make the trek each year to participate, it’s clear that for veterans, the journey means so much more.
It all started with U.S. Army veteran Dave Frey who went on the long ride to Sturgis and met a fellow Army vet along the way. They talked about other veterans that were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the difficult time so many were having with severe injuries, post-traumatic stress, and adjusting to civilian life after their war experiences.
After the rally, Frey knew he wanted to help wounded veterans but he wasn’t sure how. Then it hit him: combine his two passions, helping veterans and motorcycles.
With the help of Emmy Award-winning producer Robert Manciero, Frey formed the non-profit Veterans Charity Ride in 2015.
The goal of the group is to give wounded and amputee veterans an opportunity to get back on the road.
They do this by custom modifying donated motorcycles and sidecars for wounded vets. The modifications can range from a thumb-activated gear shift, a three-wheel conversion, to the simple attachment of a sidecar for amputees.
The group does more than just provide the motorcycles.
They have programs that help vets get in shape and stay healthy, and they hold special events for veterans. But the highlight, and the culminating event for the group, is the ride to Sturgis every year.
This year, more than 20 veterans made the journey of over 1,300 miles to attend the rally. They spent nine days riding on America’s most beautiful back roads and highways, getting to know each other and helping each other with motorcycle therapy and veteran to veteran conversation. Once they arrive, they spent the week riding the Black Hills, attending events, and doing what they can to give veterans the “Sturgis experience.”
U.S. Army veteran Michael Brown was injured in Mosul, Iraq, losing his left leg below the knee and suffering from post-traumatic stress. When other activities failed to alleviate his PTS, he turned to Frey and the Veterans Charity Ride.
“The Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis provided me the tools needed to process, confront, and overcome my damaged mental state. Equally important, it strengthened my network of friends I can turn to when needed,” Brown wrote.
“Now every time I feel the stress of life bearing down on me all I have to do is take a ride on my motorcycle and the positive memories and experience of the ride to Sturgis washes over me. I would highly recommend it to anyone going through tough times.”