In 2015, Wounded Warrior Project and Harley-Davidson partnered and launch Operation Personal Freedomto support America’s wounded veterans. That’s when I first became a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project.Now, a new opportunity to become a WWP supporter has just been announced. The two organizations are joining forces again in 2020 for the same reason in Rolling Project Odyssey.Rolling Project Odyssey is a unique motorcycle group riding experience that aims to support veterans in their recoveries from invisible wounds of war. Harley-Davidson is sponsoring group rides to extend the program to more veterans across the United States.
One of Wounded Warrior Project’s marquee mental health programs for veterans, Project Odyssey helps warriors manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other combat stress through adventure-based learning that encourages a connection with fellow veterans and nature. In Rolling Project Odyssey, motorcycle riding becomes the catalyst for the program to provide mental health education, which aims to:
help warriors manage their invisible wounds,
teach them how to enhance their resiliency skills, and
empower them to live productive and fulfilling lives.
“We are grateful for Harley-Davidson’s support and honored to partner with such a legendary brand as we fuel the future of Rolling Project Odyssey,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Richardson, WWP vice president of independence services and mental health. “Our goal is to focus warriors on their present to enable the growth of their future. The overall Rolling Project Odyssey experience is designed to encourage warriors to face adversities of the past and accomplish goals together with peers facing similar challenges, just as they did on the battlefield.”Wounded Warriors Project information on the results of the kind of group encounters like those offered in Rolling Project Odyssey show the importance of the project to wounded veterans:“Warriors at Project Odyssey enjoy the camaraderie of engaging with their fellow veterans who have similar interests and experiences. Activities like motorcycle riding and socializing with other veterans provide an opportunity for warriors to connect and expand their support network.”“In a WWP survey of the wounded warriors it serves, warriors expressed they address their mental health concerns by talking to fellow veterans (41%) and physical activity (30%). A review by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes that “veterans with better social support have more positive mental health outcomes, including lower rates of suicidal ideation.”Through Rolling Project Odyssey, veterans also experience the joys of motorcycle riding. A 2019 neurobiological study conducted by a team of three researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and funded by Harley-Davidson concluded that:
Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%.
Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators vs non-meditators.
Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee.
Harley-Davidson’s long company history of supporting the military and service veterans is underscored in comments by Jon Bekefy, general manager of brand marketing at Harley-Davidson Motor Company.“Supporting the military is ingrained in our brand’s 117-year legacy, and we take pride in working with organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project so together we can positively impact the lives of those who served. We support the goals of Rolling Project Odyssey and are excited to share with our country’s servicemen and women the joys of motorcycle riding and the attributes that are synonymous with two wheels – community, support, and personal freedom.”The first Rolling Project Odyssey of 2020 will take place on March 9 -13. The journey will start and finish in Jacksonville, Florida, where WWP headquarters are located and feature a stop in Daytona for Bike Week, which kicks off riding season in the U.S. each year.