DOWNEY – In an effort to raise awareness for victims of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the Save the Brave Organization held their first annual Save the Brave Community Bike Ride last Sunday at Rio San Gabriel Park.
Save the Brave is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting veterans in the often difficult process of rebuilding their lives once returning from a combat zone.
Many of the group’s members are combat veterans themselves, who have also struggled with the demons that come to so many of those who fought for the country.
“It was a good thing; I’m glad I did it. But there most definitely are scars that come out of service” said Jeff Leach, Save the Brave’s Treasurer. Leach served as an infantryman in the Army from 2006 to 2009, and was deployed to two tours to Iraq that lasted approximately four and 15 months.
Sunday’s ride was an attempt by the organization to reach out to the community of Downey and the surrounding areas, in order to bring attention to the many veterans who suffer from the extremely difficult to deal with and often deadly effects of PTSD.
“We want to put a stop to that, or at least minimize it,” said Ernie Delgado, Vice-President of Save the Brave. Delgado served in the Marines in Vietnam, and is the subject of a photograph that was published in Life Magazine in March of 1968.
“We’re here as Save the Brave, not only as a ride for today, but to show people we’re here to help,” added Save the Brave President Nick Velez, who served in the Marines from 2005 to 2009, including one tour in Iraq. Velez is also owner of Bastards restaurant located on Downey Avenue, which is known for its military roots and support.
The ride kicked off around 8:30 am from Rio San Gabriel Park in Downey, and took riders across a nearly six-mile trek along the riverbed ending at Liberty Park in Cerritos. At the end of the ride, each participant was able to enjoy food, company, and games of disk golf and volleyball.
Through the ride and other future events, Save the Brave hopes that they will be able to help the community try to somewhat understand this complex condition.
“I think a lot of people know about it but they don’t understand it,” said Leach. “The VA had a number in 2010 that there was 22 veterans a day killing themselves from PTSD side effects. That was, at the time, more killing themselves than dying in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined daily. That’s a huge thing.”
“There’s no cure for PTSD,” said Delgado. “You’re simply learning to live with what you do, how you feel.”
Delgado, Leach, and Velez all stressed that despite the fact that PTSD is common with military veterans, the experience varies from individual to individual.
“You know, our experiences are different but they’re also the same,” said Delgado. “We risked our lives in the military…They taught us very well how to fight, but they didn’t teach us anything when we came back to get into the real world, and that’s something we do with save the brave.
“On the same day we fight the same battle, which is the battle we didn’t sign up for, which is PTSD,” said Velez.”
For more information on Save the Brave and their future events, please visit savethebrave.org.