Led by members of the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s own motorcycle club, more than a dozen wounded veterans are hitting the road in the first-ever veterans charity ride to Sturgis, South Dakota — a popular spot for bikers.
They’ll have some fun along the way, but will also deal with some serious issues that concern veterans.
“We’ve got a suicide rate of 22 a day right now and it’s only on the rise. The reality of it is that we, as service members, need to start taking that on as our personal mission to start getting that solved,” wounded warrior Glen Silva said.
“We help each other. We’re there whether you’re in crisis or celebration, this is a camaraderie,” said Virgi Bondi of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
The participants are getting some help from Hollywood as they reach out to fellow veterans during the ride.
“Most of them are pretty modest and they don’t want to tell you what they did and where they served because they’re just modest people so we just talk to them like regular people,” comedian Jay Leno said.
“We should do everything that we can to support them and this ride is a great vehicle for that,” actress Kristy Swanson said.
“Everybody just kinda pulls together, and I think that so much of what this is about is just being there for each other,” wounded warrior Joshua Ferguson said.
It’s 1776 miles from Sun Valley to Sturgis, but not a problem for first responders who want to thank veterans for their service.
“Patriots that have protected our country, as well as firefighters and police officers, so we have a common bond there as firefighters. Within our Fire Hog Motorcycle Club, at least half of the club are previous veterans so it’s very near and dear to them,” said LAFD Fire Hog Ted Kalnas.
The group is expected to ride into Sturgis this weekend. Veterans say the goal is to reach out to as many veterans as they can and let them know it’s OK to ask for help.