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Veterans Bike Across the US, Raise Awareness for PTSD

In this June 6, 2016 photo Michael Priddy, left, and David Allisonas visit Clarksburg, W.Va., during their "No Man Rides Alone" cross-country bike trek to raise funds for veterans afflicted with PTSD. (Lisa Troshinsky/The Exponent via AP)
In this June 6, 2016 photo Michael Priddy, left, and David Allisonas visit Clarksburg, W.Va., during their "No Man Rides Alone" cross-country bike trek to raise funds for veterans afflicted with PTSD. (Lisa Troshinsky/The Exponent via AP)

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Michael Priddy and David Allison went on a do-good adventure they won't soon forget. On April 28 they left Sacramento, Calif., on their bicycles, rode across the U.S., and finished their ride in Quantico, Virginia.

They made the 47-day, 2,700 mile transcontinental trek, called "No Man Rides Alone," to raise funds and awareness for veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Priddy and Allison stopped in 42 cities along the way. They visited Clarksburg on June 6 and continued to New Creek, West Virginia, on June 7.

"Our goal is to raise one million dollars," said a ride organizer who works for The Eternity Challenge, one of three organizational sponsors. The other two sponsors are Serving California and the Mighty Oaks Foundation.

The Eternity Challenge, based in Sacramento and three years old, is a non-profit that helps people overcome financial, physical and spiritual obstacles, including those who have been incarcerated, addicted to drugs and served in the military.

The Eternity Challenge is one of the outposts of the Mighty Oaks Warrior Fight Club, a nonprofit that specifically helps veterans with PTSD, while Serving California is a nonprofit that provided financial support for the ride.

Both Priddy and Allison were subject to PTSD — Priddy as a result of being a U.S. Marine who participated in two tours in Iraq, and Allison as a long-time law enforcement officer in California. Both men attended the Mighty Oaks Warrior Fight Club program, a six-day, faith-based intensive retreat that has had tremendous success in treating the negative effects of PTSD.

"Statistics show that 22 veterans commit suicide every day," said the organizer. "Of those that survive, 80 percent end up getting divorced. In the four years Mighty Oaks has been around, 1,000 people have gone through the program, and of those, we've had zero divorces and zero suicides."

The goal of "No Man Rides Alone" is to raise funds so more veterans can attend the Mighty Oaks retreat and to offer more services to veterans, like job training, housing and counseling, she said.

The ride was the brainchild of Allison, who had cycled the route alone a few years back, to raise money for a friend who had Lou Gehrig's disease. Allison convinced Priddy to accompany him on the trip.

Priddy was introduced to the Mighty Oaks retreat program through two pastors at his church. This was after he had left the Marine Corps and became estranged from his family, which led to his divorce and depression, he said.

"I had trouble fitting into society when I left the Marine Corps and couldn't find a job that would pay a livable wage, so I did what I knew — I went overseas to work for a security contractor," Priddy said. "I was gone for six years and only came back for a week or two at a time, during which time I would lash out at my wife and kids. I was struggling with PTSD. I filed for a divorce, my kids didn't want anything to do with me and I became more and more isolated. Finally, two pastors at my church told me I was going to Mighty Oaks, which I did in August 2014. It was the best decision I ever made; it saved my life."

Priddy says he now has a wonderful relationship with his three sons, talks with them multiple times a day and visits them every chance he gets.

As a law enforcement officer for 30 years, Allison said he was exposed to a lot of violence and forced to do things that he never properly dealt with at the time. Consequently, he suffered with the effects of PTSD.

"Mike came to my church and talked with the men's group, shared his story, and it resonated with me," Allison said. "God was tugging at my heart and I knew I needed to get involved, so I went through the program in February 2016."

Priddy and Allison said this experience, although physically challenging, has been incredible, as they have met lots of people and received support along the way, giving speeches at American Legions, VFWs, churches and city events.

"Cycling up the Monarch Pass in Colorado, at 11,312 feet in the snow and wind ... things like that I'll always remember," Priddy said.

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