Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

Harley-Davidson partners with the Wounded Warrior Project to host veterans

Sep 08, 2022 11:44AM ● By Peri Kinder

Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. At almost one death every hour, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reported most of those deaths are in veterans 50 and older. 

The Wounded Warrior Project offers assistance to veterans through interactive retreats, professional services and rehabilitation. WWP’s adventure-based mental health program, Rolling Project Odyssey, brought a group of veterans together in Utah for a week-long 300-mile ride.

Harley-Davidson of Salt Lake City (2928 S. State St.) hosted the warriors at an event in late July, giving veterans an opportunity to connect with staff as they assemble bikes and watch a demonstration of some motorcycle tricks for the warriors.

“Us veterans, we’re all alphas,” said Navy veteran Ray Andalio. “We’re all out to help. But it needs to start within. For us to start, we need to reach out because we don’t know it all. There are organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project that are out there empowering veterans every day. I hope one day everyone would understand this stigma needs to go away. Pride kills us all.”

Andalio has worked as peer mentor with WWP since 2009 and regularly recruits members, bringing them into the community and providing them with hope, purpose and camaraderie. 

Ogden resident, Matt, said Andalio got him involved with the WWP, a program that’s given him avenues to destress and connect with other veterans. Matt served in the Army for 22 years before retiring in 2018. 

“It gets you out, it gets you with like-minded individuals, whether it’s on a motorcycle or at a golf course,” Matt said. “All the different activities and exercises are group therapy, and I say therapy really loosely.”

Participants in Rolling Project Odyssey come from different parts of the country but all have the same desire to support each other. They hope veterans see the adventure-based activities, on YouTube or social media, and reach out to get involved. 

According to WWP’s Annual Warrior Survey, one in four WWP Warriors have had suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months. Adventure-based mental health workshops provide support for veterans to overcome these challenges together. This program connects warriors with common interests to develop a new sense of camaraderie and coping skills to overcome the invisible wounds of war.

Rolling Project Odyssey is part of a larger partnership between WWP and Harley-Davidson to honor and empower wounded veterans. Harley-Davidson has supported the military for many years and continues to support veterans and active-duty military.

Corey Jorgensen, a South Salt Lake Police motorcycle officer, attended the event with several SSL officers. They did a motorcycle demonstration for the veterans attending the Harley-Davidson event. 

“We work closely with Harley-Davidson,” Jorgensen said. “We support them and they support us. We were asked to come support the veteran’s bike ride today. It was an honor to be here.”

With donor support, the WWP has provided more than 42,000 hours of intensive outpatient care and therapy sessions that have helped warriors move closer to becoming their best selves.

“It’s pretty cool,” Matt said. “It lets you know you’re not alone.” λ