Iraq veterans cycle for PTSDTwo veterans are honoring a fellow soldier and fighting the post-traumatic stress disorder that took his life by pedaling across North Dakota in less than two weeks.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Two veterans are honoring a fellow soldier and fighting the post-traumatic stress disorder that took his life by pedaling across North Dakota in less than two weeks.
“It’s been all right. It’s pretty hot. A couple of days were pretty windy,” said cyclist Dan Olson, before leaving Jamestown Wednesday. “We drink a lot of water (and) eat a lot of food — bananas, fruit, power bars.”
National Guardsmen Nick Folkedahl, of West Fargo, and Olson, of Fargo, hope to raise money and awareness through the second annual Pedaling for PTSD ride. The two are accompanied by Jim Deremo, chairman of the North Dakota American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee, who drives a trailer filled with supplies and spare bike parts.
The group stayed at Super 8 Tuesday night after a long ride from Fargo, visiting ride sponsor Home of Economy in Jamestown Wednesday morning. The business donated $2,500 and placed donation boxes on its stores’ counters. Money raised goes to the Courage Carries On campaign, which encourages veterans to seek help if they experience the symptoms of PTSD.
For Olson, the trip is personal. After his second tour of duty in Iraq, Olson’s friend and fellow soldier, Joe Biel, took his own life after experiencing PTSD. The tragedy motivated him to start Pedaling for PTSD.
“It took courage to put the uniform on, and ... you need to have that same courage you had to serve your country to ... pick up the phone and ask for help,” Deremo said. “PTSD isn’t something that’s going to go away. It’s always going to be with you. The key to it is to get to it early.”
Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks and sudden bouts of irrational anger or fear. Sometimes, Deremo said, veterans don’t even realize they have a problem.
“These veterans need money to get support,” Folkedahl said. “Help doesn’t always come for free, it’s sad to say.”
Last year, Olson’s bike ride garnered $3,000 — a mark Folkedahl, Olson and Deremo had already achieved by the time they reached Jamestown, a midpoint in the second leg of the trip.
The group started out from Williston on June 27, stopped in Home of Economy stores in Minot, Devils Lake and Grand Forks, and began the second half of the trip in Park River on Independence Day, stopping in Fargo Tuesday and Jamestown Wednesday.
They are scheduled to depart Bismarck today and stop in Dickinson Friday.
The cyclists travel about eight hours and drink one to two cases of bottled water every day.
Olson has been biking for several years, but the long distances are new to Folkedahl.
“It’s harder than most people think,” Folkedahl said. “I started when I decided to join (the Pedaling for PTSD ride) five months ago.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by e-mail at klucin@ jamestownsun.com