Twin Cities 'Soldier Ride' brings veterans together to heal

On a muggy Minnesota morning, they set out for a 16-mile ride. Some hadn’t ridden in years. Many hadn’t ever ridden this far. All were looking for help healing wounds that often go unseen to the rest of us.

“It's the camaraderie, getting people out and about,” said Veronica Wayne of Mounds View.  “I know for me I struggle with isolation, so when I come to these events I feel back to my normal self.”

Wayne was one of more than 40 former and current members of the military taking part in the 3rd annual Soldier Ride. It’s a program of the Wounded Warriors Project, which unites veterans across the U.S. for activities that gets them active and simply gets them together.

“This is instrumental in their successful transition, either post injury or post getting out of the military,” said Soldier Ride coordinator Mike Owens. “So many of them go back home and isolate.”

The Soldier Ride brought together men and women from the middle part of the country, ranging from Minnesota to Texas, into the Twin Cities for four days, two of those days on bikes. Sixteen miles through St. Paul on Friday would be followed by 18 more miles on Saturday through Woodbury.

Some rode specially-equipped bikes to accommodate physical injuries. For others, the wounds are more psychological, the results of traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When you’re riding you can focus on that instead of all the stuff going on in your head, get past all the demons some of us have,” said Robert Warren of Fort Hood, Texas, who is six months away from retiring from the Army.

“It’s changed my life, to be honest with you,” said Carlos Alvarado, speaking of Wounded Warrior programs as a whole. “It gets me out of the house to meet other events like myself to know I’m not the only one with issues.”