Wilmington man completes 15,000 mile bike ride for veteran mental health awareness

A trip that took almost 3 months, across 48 states and more than 15,000 miles is now complete.
Published: Aug. 14, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A trip that took almost 3 months, across 48 states and more than 15,000 miles is now complete.

Sunday, Army veteran Perry Steed was welcomed back to Wilmington by his family and more than 60 bikers and fellow veterans.

A trip he calls “Ride For Light” that started back on May 20th, took Steed across all of the contiguous United States. His goal was to pick up the remains of two brothers in arms, one who took his life after serving our country, the other died of a rare cancer. One was in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, and the other in San Luis Obispo, California.

Steed says the mission was to gather the remains and spread them upon the hallowed sands of Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg.

Along the way, he says he learned some valuable lessons when sharing stories with people.

“Every time I told my story, every time I spoke to somebody, you absorb some of their pain, some of their grief. It’s a lot to try to process on the road. So in speaking with some people that were pretty influential to me, they just expressed, you should just try a little harder to live in the now and just take take notice of the things that are around you.” said Steed.

Steed has his own organization called Operation: Purpose to spread awareness about veterans struggling with mental health issues, where per his website “Veterans are 50% more likely to die from suicide than someone who has never served.”

Steed’s family was waiting for him when he turned the corner into Paul’s Place when first arriving, and his wife Liz says they supported him the whole way.

“We’re a team, the kids adore their father. They know that he’s had his struggles too. So we just wanted to support him and encourage him to make this trip because he’s wanted to do it.” said Steed.

Liz says the looks on her children’s faces when their father arrived were priceless.

It was perfect. Our middle child was telling me exactly how hard she was going to squeeze them and for how long. They have been counting down the days for sure.” said Steed

Among the bikers and veterans who showed to give Steed a warm welcome was Jason Gilbert. Gilbert and his wife have been friends with the Steed family for a few years and Gilbert says the showing of support was heart-warming.

“It’s inspirational to see that people care. It’s just eye opening, lets you see all this around us right now. Lets you know really how big this community is. And how many people actually care.” said Gilbert.

Steed had one message for his brothers in arms that are going through the same issues.

“What I encourage other people to do that see this that are veterans, talk, reach out to your battle buddies, because some of the best help that I’ve received on this trip, it’s just about talking to my friends, people that I haven’t seen in 20 years, we draw and derive strength from one another.” said Steed.

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