I’ve decided that in 2015 one of my goals will be writing more blogs regarding the subject of alternative PTSD treatments. It was something I started writing about late in 2014. I found that it was actually quite intriguing. Something I discovered last year that works well for some Veterans is yoga. However, there are other options. What I want to discuss today is something that is on the opposite end of the spectrum…motorcycle clubs.
Before I get into the bulk of this blog I have to start with a little bit of controversy. I really don’t like motorcycles in any capacity. I don’t like dirt bikes, I don’t like “choppers,” I don’t even like those really fast bikes with the crass nickname. When I saw that Chris Pratt would be riding a variety of motorcycles in the new “Jurassic World” movie, I immediately took to Twitter to express my distain. Words like “cliche” and “basic” were flying left and right. I’m a car guy. I’ll take a Toyota Highlander over a Triumph Speedmaster any day. I really don’t have time to get into all the reasons why I am not a motorcycle fan right now…though I am sure it started when I wrecked one as a kid. Regardless, something made my opinion of motorcycles change recently, and that is what I want to talk about today.
I have a friend who is a Veteran. He is one of the coolest people I know. He’s genuine, really into cars, and has a great personality. He likes me, so obviously he has good taste. When he returned home from serving in our recent conflicts he had issues with PTSD. I won’t get in to the details, but it was severe at times. He happens to be a big motorcycle guy. He has the whole look: leather attire, unique helmets, boots…I’m talking full “Sons of Anarchy” mode. When he was searching for an outlet he found a motorcycle group, and that helped him tremendously with his recovery. When I asked him what the appeal of the motorcycle group was, he said: “I get a sense of freedom while riding especially with my brothers. Being a part of a club has helped me open up since I came back home.” When he elaborated on this my mind was truly open to how much a motorcycle club makes sense for a Veteran.
“I am an Iraq Veteran and I can sit and talk to a Vietnam Veteran with no issues. We may have a lot of years between us and a different war, but we still have a bond. It helps me talk to someone and get things off my chest because I know they have been there and understand where I am coming from. In a club you have a rank structure just as we did in the military. You ride in formation, you must prove yourself, and you also have a brotherhood that is just like the military. It is a great stress release to many Veterans and it is rewarding helping others in need even if it is just a handshake. Wearing my vest covered in all my veteran patches, I get respect and thanked everywhere I go.”
This is why I am so supportive of groups like this. I made the “Sons of Anarchy” reference earlier, and I think that is what so many people have in mind when it comes to any motorcycle club. However, my experience with the Veteran’s Motorcycle groups has been positive. For instance, during our annual Walk4Vets, the West Virginia Patriot Guard Riders are present. They have been at all of our events, and they put on an awesome display. To see a long line of motorcycles complete with American Flags traveling down the road is an emotional experience for me. While this group isn’t a dedicated club for Vets with PTSD, nor is it exclusive to Veterans, it’s a great example of how these groups make a difference in their communities. This particular group is present at funerals of service members killed in action. They do so much more than that though. They welcome everyone and participate in parades, community events, and even charitable endeavors.
Other groups are more exclusive and serve a different purpose. A group exclusive to Veterans with PTSD exists in Illinois. You can read more about this organization in the article I found, but the story is pretty straight forward: finding individuals with shared experiences can be beneficial. This article describes how these Veterans found a sense of camaraderie.
Many of the Veterans I speak with are 30 years of age or younger. When they return home from serving they often get married, have kids, and aren’t around many other Veterans. It can be difficult for them discuss their PTSD symptoms. Finding a group like a motorcycle club can be very therapeutic. It’s not just a group of individuals who have similar experiences; it’s a group of people who share your passion. That is what stands out for me.
For instance, I like some pretty random stuff. This can be isolating at times because I don’t know a lot of people who share my passion. When I find someone who does it’s magical. You start out by discussing your passion, but then your guard comes down and you can share more important aspects of life.
While I may not be a big motorcycle fan, I am a huge fan of these clubs, and an even bigger fan of what they do for Vets with PTSD. Sometimes just proving that you aren’t alone in this world can make the biggest difference in someone’s life.
If you are a Veteran who would like to know more about service connecting fir PTSD, feel free to give me a call for a free consultation: 1-877-526-3457. Or, if you’d rather be called at a more convenient time, you can fill out this form instead.