The Strength of the Wolf
Why do you ride in a group? Is it for the camaraderie? The chance to multiply the experience by the number of people taking part. Maybe it’s the strength you feel in numbers?
Whatever the reason, it’s compelling. Even contagious.
The Kipling poem The Law of the Jungle captures it most aptly: “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
It’s the same reason military units are organized in platoons and squads. To create small, cohesive, tactical groups that are bonded by a single mission. A shared experience. A brotherhood.
Now imagine being removed from the group. Losing that bond. Not being able to “ride.”
That’s a feeling that’s all too familiar for the 2.8 million U.S. military veterans who have served since 9/11. Some of them face that separation because of a combat-related injury. Others because they’re simply honorably discharged at the end of their heroic service.
Some are able to manage that immediate and sometimes harsh separation through support systems in civilian life. Others struggle. Some to the point of despair. How do we know? Because 22 of the 20.3 million surviving U.S. military veterans will take their own lives today.
According to a 2012 Pentagon-funded study by the National Center for Veteran Studies, the number one reason they do is a desire to end intense emotional distress. Fortunately, the findings of that study sparked support for new forms of therapy that focus on activity, engagement and new skill development to heal emotional pain.
Enter VETMotorsports, an award-winning, non-clinical outreach program that honors and empowers injured warfighters through active participation in motorsports – particularly motorcycle racing. The all-volunteer organization works with top-flight professional racing teams to embed qualifying warfighters as crew members and facilitate events that put them behind the wheel to race themselves.
These unique motorsports experiences provide direction, empowerment and challenges. They provide what wounded combat warfighters desire most – a mission, a purpose, a group. Through VETMotorsports they get the same adrenalin rush and sense of vitality and teamwork they felt on active duty. They engage, participate and contribute. They focus on ability and moving forward rather than disability and what’s happened in the past. And they get actual hands-on experience while also feeling valued in a civilian world, where they often struggle to fit in.
“This is a real-life, impact-making program that’s filling a void for so many post-9/11 wounded warfighters,” said United States Air Force Lt. Colonel Bernie “Bunyan” Willis, who leads the VETMotorsports board. “I’ve had the great privilege to see first-hand the impact this kind of outreach has on this esteemed group of men and women. It’s a small thing for us to do in supporting the health and well-being of a group of people who have already given so much of themselves for us.”
Triumph Motorcycles America saw that impact and wanted in. Along with partner Castrol, Triumph created a performance match fund to raise financial support and awareness for the organization.
Dubbed Castrol’s VETMotorsports Performance Match Fund, the program awards bonuses to VETMotorsports based on the on-track results of Triumph’s factory racing teams in the U.S. As part of the initiative, VETMotorsports places post-9/11 disabled veterans onto Triumph teams to serve as official crew members during race weekends.
One of those veterans is United States Marine Sgt. Chad Clickner of Livonia, New York, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom as a member of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He spent last season as a member of Triumph’s factory team in the MotoAmerica series.
“The greatest thing about working on a race team is that everyone on the team respects each other and is working toward a common goal,” he said. “That's what I miss about the Marine Corps -- the respect and teamwork.”
He’s enjoying both now thanks to Triumph.
“Through this partnership, we’ve already positively affected the lives of 130 veterans,” said VETMotorsports Executive Director and Founder Peter Cline. “We can’t thank the Triumph enough for embracing these veterans and offering them renewed hope by having them be a part of a team again.”
You can help, too. Just visit www.vetmotorsports.org/donate to learn more. And help get a few more wolves back in the pack.