Two wounded Valley veterans are on a trek, making their way across the country on Segways. It’s part of their effort to raise awareness and money to fight the alarming suicide rates of our returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CBS47 first told you about retired Staff Sergeant Justin Bond and Private First Class Jason Say back in April, as they stopped in Fresno, on their way to Florida.
Their journey started in Monterey on April 1st and they hope to make it to Jacksonville, Florida on May 30th.
On April 9th, Hanford resident Justin Bond, a husband and father of three, wheeled into Fresno for a brief ceremony at the Fresno V.A. Hospital.
Bond lost his left leg in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq.
Making the cross country trip with him is fellow Hanford resident, Private First Class Jason Day, who after serving as a heavy artillery cannon crew member, had a slipped disk while deployed in Kuwait in 2002.
Their backgrounds are different but their goal is the same: Stop an alarming statistic for our returning vets.
Bond started a non profit organization called "Our Heroes Dreams." It’s part of a larger effort that offers everything from what he calls “Healing Safari's” here in California, to home repairs for our returning wounded vets. “You're wounded either physically or mentally or both,” said Bond.
His new mission: Helping other vets “Dare to Dream” again, and he's using a cross country Segway trip to do it.
By traveling 60 miles a day, Bond and Day hope to raise awareness and money for other vets.
With fund raising events like the one last month in Clovis, Sergeant Bond hopes to help the families of 200 veterans take part in a “Healing Safari.”
In the meantime, Bond and Day are on a safari of their own with a wide-open map of the United States in front of them. They're taking the back-roads, raising money and awareness along the way, about the plight and the struggles of our returning wounded vets.
CBS47’s Ken Malloy caught up with them just outside of Bakersfield. Riding alongside on a bicycle, Ken observed something right away: People were expecting them and were waiting for them. Everywhere they go, they tell people about their new mission and it’s hard to ignore two vets on Segways. They keep a tight military schedule and have check-points to make everyday. And every day, they're sixty miles closer to their goal.
Justin wears a meter around his neck that shows how much battery life they have left on their Segways. They can only go about 20-miles per charge, so they’ll each go through at least three batteries every day. That's where Ruby Denning comes in. She's Justin's cousin and she is following them across country in a big Red Ford Excursion, loaded with batteries and other provisions for their long ride. When their batteries start to die, Ruby is there with a fresh one.
And wherever they go, they're met with an uncommon hospitality. Like when they stopped at a Famous Dave's for lunch outside of Bakersfield. Lunch was on the house. “We're getting a lot of support out there. People are driving up handing us donations. Churches have been taking care of us along the way,” said Jason Day.
And along the way, they're taking pictures and video's and sharing their message on the web through their website, Facebook and Twitter.
Along the way, Justin and Jason have also partnered with other non-profit originations to help veterans they meet along the way, everything from paying bills to dealing with home and car repairs. Home Depot and Chase Bank have donated millions of dollars to help our vets with their homes and Segway has donated hundreds of Segways to vets who lost limbs.
And along the way, others give what they can. “People are donating things like 30 pounds of almonds to us.”
On this day, the journey ended like many other days, in a randomly picked hotel room. Sometimes the rooms are free, and sometimes their discounted with a snack thrown in for free.
In their eight-state journey, Justin, Jason and Ruby will travel almost 3,000 miles in 60 days.
At various stops along the way, they'll be joined by dozens of other vets who are following their progress along the way.
They'll deplete dozens of batteries, in the hopes of charging up hundreds of other veterans along way. Their hope is the idea of “Vets on Segs” will spread. For Justin, the Segway is symbolic of the chance he wants other wounded vets to experience. “I can't walk very far. I was shot through the center of both knees. With the Segway, I can stand and go,” said Justin.
Standing up for other vets and leading the way. It’s their new mission, which for now, includes sharing the road for sixty days with a fellow vet. “We hope by the end of the trip, we're still talking to each other, but right now we're best friends,” said Justin.
If you would like to help them in their new mission and help other veterans along the way, visit their website, OurHeroesDreams.org
and follow them Facebook.