WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A journey that spanned almost 3 months, 48 states and more than 15,000 miles is now complete.
On Sunday, Army veteran Perry Steed was welcomed back to Wilmington by his family and more than 60 bikers and fellow veterans.
A journey he calls “Ride For Light” which began on May 20, took Steed all over the contiguous United States. His intention was to retrieve the remains of two brothers in arms who killed themselves after serving our country. One was in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, and the other in San Luis Obispo, California.
Steed says the mission was to collect debris and spread it on the sacred sands of the Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg.
Along the way, he says he learned some valuable lessons when sharing stories with people.
“Every time I told my story, every time I talked to someone, you absorb a part of their pain, a part of their grief. It’s a lot to try to process on the road. So talking to some people who were quite influential to me, they just said, you just have to try a little harder to live in the present and just notice the things around you.” Steed said.
Steed has his own organization called Operation: Purpose to spread awareness about veterans struggling with mental health issues, where according to his website “Veterans are 50% more likely to die by suicide than someone who never served.”
Steed’s family were waiting for him when he turned the corner at the Palace when he first arrived, and his wife Liz says they supported him all the way.
“We are a team, the children adore their father. They know he has had his struggles too. So we just wanted to support him and encourage him to do this trip because he wanted to do it.” Steed said.
Liz says the looks on her children’s faces when their dad arrived were priceless.
It was perfect. Our middle child was telling me exactly how hard to squeeze them and for how long. They are numbering the days for sure.” Steed said
Among the riders and veterans who showed up to give Steed a warm welcome was Jason Gilbert. Gilbert and his wife have been friends with the Steed family for several years, and Gilbert says the show of support was heartwarming.
“It’s inspiring to see that people care. It’s just eye-opening, it lets you see all this around us now. Shows you how big this community is. And how many people actually care.” Gilbert said.
Steed had a message for his brothers in arms who are going through the same problems.
“What I encourage other people to see that are veterans, talk, reach out to your battle buddies, because some of the best help I’ve gotten on this journey is just talking to my friends, people I haven’t seen in 20 years, we take and get strength from each other.” Steed said.
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