A veteran-founded nonprofit that connects troubled soldiers with independent counseling services kicked off a 5,000-mile motorcycle ride in Tacoma on Friday, hoping to raise awareness about military suicides and drum up support at Army installations.
Founder Brian Kinsella came to the Puget Sound area this week and met with leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The former Army captain then launched his long ride east at the Eagle Leather motorcycle gear store on South Tacoma Way.
"The Harley-Davidson Street Glide is a beautiful motorcycle, and I am really looking forward to making the 5,000+ mile journey on this bike," Kinsella, a veteran of the Iraq War, wrote on his travel blog.
Lewis-McChord this week concluded an Army-wide suicide "stand down" in which units were encouraged to take time off and talk about psychological and emotional health.
Kinsella's group, Stop Soldier Suicide, tries to fill a gap in the soldier safety net by providing counseling services outside the military chain of command. Those private services sometimes appeal to service members who fear repercussions to their careers if they are too open.
"Our goal is to support what the Army has going on; we're just another outlet for soldiers to contact if they're having problems," said Capt. Adam Buchanan, an active-duty officer based at Fort Bragg, N.C., who's on the board of directors of Stop Soldier Suicide.
Suicides among active-duty soldiers have risen persistently since 2005 despite Army efforts to halt the trend. Buchanan said he and other veterans were motivated to support the nonprofit because of their personal experiences working with service members who have contemplated ending their lives.
Kinsella's next stop is Fort Carson, Colo. He plans to wrap up his Ride for Life on Oct. 12 in Times Square in New York City, where he lives.