Jarrad Turner, a former U.S. Army Combat Medic and veteran with 10 years’ service, sustained multiple injuries during his second tour to Iraq, including PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. But he’s never let that make him a victim — he has more important things on his mind.
“I am an American,” said Turner, who lives in metro Atlanta. “Secondly, I’m blessed to be a parent. My kids have been my inspiration. My kids have been the reason that I can’t quit, simply put.”
But it’s not only his family who drives him to keep going and never give up.
“Now, my goal is just to give back,” he said.
Turner is the Executive Director of the Epic Veteran Ride, a 4,373-mile cycling event that begins April 14, 2016, in California, travels to Atlanta and ends Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, at One Freedom Tower in New York. It’s all in the name of raising awareness for PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and other combat injuries.
The veterans who participate are not professional athletes, they don’t have any formal training — they come together to maintain a sense of camaraderie and to support the brave men and woman who fight for our country.
“You lose your sense of innocence from combat. War changes you,” Turner said.
“Something about just cycling … that you’re free.”
For him, cycling is also an opportunity to reconnect with his family after coming home from combat.
“It evolved into this thing that I can take my family with me. To be able to ride and to know that my kids love cycling just as much as I want to do it … that’s why I say it’s been life-saving.”
Share Military Initiative at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta is a rehabilitation program for veterans who have TBI from combat post 9/11. Turner is a graduate of the program, but continues to volunteer to help provide assistance, support and education to service members and their families during their recovery treatment and beyond.
“I know what the heck it is to want to quit. I get it,” Turner said. “Sometimes these … I don’t want to say disabilities … these things get ahold of you, and they can send you to a dark place in your life.”
But he has an important message to remember as we celebrate Veterans Day and every day.
“We’re not victims. This is a reality of life,” Turner said. “War, combat sucks. That’s it. It’s ugly, it’s nasty, it’s low-down, it’s dirty … but from those things, people stay safe.”
Rare video producer Elissa Benzie, firstname.lastname@example.org, contributed to this article.