“When you leave the military, you kind of feel like you lose your team,” says Richie ‘Two Chairs’ Neider, an Army veteran from Phoenix who was injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom when an IED caused a spinal chord injury that would confine him to a wheelchair. “The healing happens. You just have to keep moving forward.”
Neider grew up riding motorcycles, so returning to a life where he might not be able to ride again only exacerbated his sense of loss. But then he discovered the Veterans Charity Ride, a nonprofit organization founded by fellow Veteran Dave Frey in 2014 after talking with other Veterans about how to help those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Dave came in my life last year and drug me out of the house,” recounted Neider, standing beside the custom motorcycle and sidecar he built (and now controls) with his hands. This past July, he and 17 fellow Veterans took to the open road and set out for the world’s largest motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.
“Motorcycle therapy is this phenomenon that actually happens when you’re riding a motorcycle,” says Frey. “It’s getting out on that motorcycle that you have to be in command of. That really helps our guys and gals that have been through combat issues.” Most of their motorcycles are donated by Indian Motorcycle for the Veterans to use – and when they arrive in Sturgis each year, the VFW now organizes a Military Appreciation Day, providing an even greater sense of community and belonging.
“It was a flood of emotion,” Neider confirms. “By the time we go to Sturgis last year, it was just complete unit cohesion.”
VA knows better than anyone that ‘healing’ is, quite often, a team and community effort. That’s why we do all we can to support and promote groups like Veterans Charity Ride and the Veteran communities – and Veteran healing – they foster. To join our efforts and explore your own opportunities with VA, please visit www.vacareers.va.gov