Army veteran and University of Phoenix student Jason Day rode a Segway cross-country for a cause
You’ve heard of people jogging, biking or even walking cross-country, but what about driving a Segway® scooter? That’s exactly what University of Phoenix School of Business graduate and current MBA student Jason Day did last summer to raise awareness about veteran suicide.
After receiving an honorable medical discharge from the Army in 2002, Day continued to serve by volunteering for veteran organizations. Through these efforts, he became friends with Justin Bond, a combat veteran and amputee who formed Our Heroes’ Dreams, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve veterans’ lives.
Many citizens are aware of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by veterans, but few know about the shocking suicide rate among the afflicted. “There are 18 vets a day who commit suicide,” Day explains. “Our Heroes’ Dreams is helping to fight that. There are no other organizations trying to fight vet suicide,” he says, adding, “We’re losing more to suicide than combat.”
To put numbers in perspective, 18 suicides a day equals about 6,500 a year, a higher per-day casualty rate than that experienced during the height of the Iraq War.
Day says that troubled veterans often become recluses, struggling to adjust to civilian life. Our Heroes’ Dreams invites veterans and their families to a week at a Healing Safari, a guidance center in Monterey County, California, where they receive counseling while spending time with the ranch's exotic animals.
A Healing Safari can have a big impact. Day explains how one man, who hadn’t left his house in five years and hadn’t hugged or kissed his wife or kids in three, benefited from his stay. “When he first got there, he wouldn’t even respond to people when they asked him questions,” Day says.
“He used to love going camping and off-roading before his military service, so we called up the forest service, and they issued him his own trail. Now he’s responsible for going up there every few days and maintaining the trail,” Day notes.
To raise awareness for Our Heroes’ Dreams, “Justin had the idea of going across the country on Segways,” Day says. In April 2012, the two set out on their nearly two-month, 3,000-mile journey, traveling about 60 miles a day at a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour. They improved awareness with local press coverage in most towns, and raised thousands of dollars for the cause.
Although Bond was a seasoned Segway driver, Day says he only “rode one for two miles before the trip ... and one of those miles was the night before.” Traffic laws prevented the two from riding on freeways and interstates, but that didn’t bother Day, who says, “I’d rather be on one of those for eight hours than sitting in a car for three hours because it’s a really neat way to see the country.”
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