When Marine Corps Veteran Jonathan Hagerman returned from Afghanistan, where he worked as a portable power unit mechanic, he sought out a specific “pressure release valve”: a mountain bike on Craigslist.
Though his transition focused on education, completing an associate’s degree at night school, and later a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Hagerman wanted to rediscover the joy of mountain biking. It had been over a decade since he had touched a bike.
After school, Hagerman worked his way up the corporate ladder, while he and his wife, Alexandra, started a family. By nights and weekends, he spent time riding, and rediscovered the joy he remembered as a child.
Soon, Hagerman began inviting his coworkers to join him on rides. He was close to one coworker, Marine Veteran Bill Kohmuench, who shared his passion for biking—and active, therapeutic outlet for them. On their rides, they often floated ideas back and forth, wondering how best to incorporate biking to help other Veterans.
That led to the creation of their nonprofit, the Dirt Therapy Project. They believed mountain biking was a great outlet that could help Veterans manage their stress. If it could be the release valve Hagerman needed, why couldn’t it be for others, too?
He explained this on the Vet Pivot podcast, hosted by Air Force Veterans Matt Kuchera and Adam Braatz.
Kuchera suggested mountain biking can recharge you, as a callback to a favorite childhood activity from one’s youth and that it creates a sense of togetherness.
Hagerman explained that his program brings fellow Veterans together to ride. What helps riders come back and for the program to grow is the pairing of physical activity and community bonding for its participants. Like being a part of a tribe—a familiar concept to Veterans.
In addition to running the Dirt Therapy Project, Hagerman has turned some of his attention to competing. In 2019, he competed in the Bush Institute’s Warrior 100K mountain biking competition, and even got to meet President George W. Bush!
Thank you for your service, Jonathan!
More about the Dirt Therapy Project
Learn more about the Dirt Therapy Project on their website: https://thedirttherapyproject.org/
You can listen to Hagerman’s interview in episode 16 of the Vet Pivot podcast by clicking the following link: https://vetpivot.com/podcast/
Writer: Michaela Yesis
Editor: Aristeo Hernandez
Fact Checker: Enya Lowe
Graphics: Michelle Zischke