Soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan are joining the ranks of other military members who say they struggle to find activities where they can blow off steam with other vets. ATVS 4 Vets was started two years ago. Friday, the non-profit that provides therapeutic riding for vets was able to purchase their own ATVs.A handshake sealed the deal and made ATVS 4 Vets the proud owners of three new rides, but these mean machines will serve a bigger purpose than taking on rough terrain. They'll help veterans battle a memories of combat. At least that's what it did for the programs founder, Nate Harter. "It just clears your mind. If you're going you can't think about your buddy's death. You can't think about the firefight you're in. You can't think about anything," said Harter.
"We lost Charles Kauffman and Todd Olsen while we were over there and when we came back another veteran in our battalion committed suicide and I know quite a few people in our company who have attempted suicide," said Harter.
When you have veteran buddies-brothers in arms-get killed in front of you, it hits you in the heart. When you don't have a way to express how you feel those are the moments that get you the hardest," said John Denke who works with the non-profit.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 22 veterans will try to take their own lives. That staggering statistic is the reason for ATVS 4 Vets and why an area business owner stepped up to help."They have limited funds, so I wanted to help. I grew up on ATVs, dirt bikes and riding Jet Skis. Getting new riders to experience that is gratifying," said Rod Hall, owner of Rod's Ride On Power Sports in La Crosse. Friday's purchase is more than a big buy. All agree it's an investment into healing the minds and hearts of our heroes.
Vets from all wars are welcome to ride on any six throughout the year. The organization says they need monetary donations and are hoping for donations of Go-Pros. For more information or to make a donation email firstname.lastname@example.org