by Molly Marcello
The Times-Independent

A group of 10 wounded and amputee veterans, along with mentors and support staff, will rumble into Moab this weekend for a gathering highlighting community, healing and a little adventure. The group is part of “Veterans Charity Ride,” a nonprofit organization that leads cross-country motorcycle therapy excursions to aid combat veterans through their healing and recovery process.

“Our program is designed to not only give veterans an adventure and remind them of camaraderie, it’s also to get them in space, in the present time and away from the old demons,” said Veterans Charity Ride founder Dave Frey.

Frey, a veteran U.S. Army airborne paratrooper, said all of the individuals his organization serves deal with the stressors of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and re-assimilation into civilian life. These issues, Frey said, can push veterans deep “into a rabbit hole.”

“Our core mission is to rehabilitate the goals and purposes of our men and women that serve this country and who have had these traumatic combat experiences,” Frey said. “… We’re reaching down and pulling them out of that rabbit hole.”

Motorcycle therapy, according to Frey, immediately places individuals “in the moment,” getting veterans away from the danger of their previous trauma.

“To operate a motorcycle safely you need to be in the moment, in the present time,” Frey said. “There are no doors; it’s just you and two wheels surrounded by cars, trucks, trailers and the highway. … This gives you this freedom, this connection to the environment, to the atmosphere.”

Some of the group’s participants will ride motorcycles, and others will ride in sidecars driven by their fellow veteran mentors. Both experiences, Frey said, allow the veterans an escape from the cycles of PTSD.

“Motorcycles, the culture, the community, and the technical aspects of riding are therapeutic,” Frey said.

When the group stops in Moab at the end of the month, they will have traveled more than 700 miles from their starting point in Los Angeles. While their ultimate destination is another 700 miles away in Sturgis, South Dakota, for the town’s annual bike rally, the group will spend several days taking in the sights in Moab.

“Moab is the perfect location for adventure and motorcycle therapy,” Frey said. “… We don’t need skyscrapers or walls or buildings, we need open spaces and beauty and access to what Moab has to offer.”

During their time in Moab, the Veterans Charity Ride participants will base their adventures out of Red Cliffs Lodge, going out on horseback and even floating the Colorado River.

“We’ve been really proud to be a part of it,” said Red Cliffs Lodge owner Colin Fryer. “… They have a little bit of fun, a little bit of healing, and then when they leave here they’re leaving more as a cohesive group.”

Fryer, a self-described “motorcycle guy” himself, has supported Veterans Charity Ride since the group ended up at Red Cliffs during their first ride three years ago. He said he feels that those who have sacrificed for their country need help and support once they return.

“These young men and women have paid huge sacrifices,” Fryer said. “Some of them are missing limbs, some of them are mentally stressed. They’ve given a lot to keep our country free. I’ve always thought we don’t do enough when they come back. … They shouldn’t be left stranded on their own.”

Fryer sayid a key piece of the long-distance motorcycle rides are the communities across the country who welcome and thank the veterans for their service.

“The guys and gals love when America comes out to shake their hand,” Frey said. “A big part of our program is to show that to our veterans, many of whom feel forgotten.”

Moab resident Dick Pacheco hopes the Moab community will come out to “meet, greet and thank” the Veterans Charity Ride members during a “welcome to Moab” event July 30 at Swanny City Park.

“I hope the whole community shows up,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco serves as a local pastor and the director of the Hands of Hope New Life Center, which he calls a “life recovery” program. A veteran who also rides a motorcycle, Pacheco understands the benefit of therapy of all kinds, especially the space that riding a bike can give an individual.

“Riding my motorcycle is therapy for me,” Pacheco said. “I’m working with drug courts, the pastor of a church. Sometimes the best thing I can do is get on my motorcycle and go for a ride. My head gets cleared and I enjoy this beautiful country we live in.”

Local residents are invited to “meet, greet and thank” the Veterans Charity Ride group at Swanny City Park on July 30 at 2 p.m. Pacheco said he hopes for a good turnout, and added that there will be other veterans arriving from throughout the region to add to the welcoming atmosphere.

Pacheco will be collecting donations to support the group when they arrive in Moab. For more information about how to support Veterans Charity Ride contact Pacheco, at dickandkonnie@gmail.com or call 435-260-2755.

Read more: Moab Times-Independent – Veterans Charity Ride to make stop in Moab July 30