Vintage two- and three-wheeled technology machines powered by strong legs and/or small electric engines are being used to assist former warriors in transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Kelley and Peter Guidry and their Southern Nevada-based nonprofit organization, Forgotten Not Gone, provide help to veterans who have had thoughts of suicide. They have found that riding bikes and trikes can have a positive effect and produce positive life-changing experiences.
The Guidrys are both Air Force veterans who were stationed in Italy. Later, Peter Guidry was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County and was medically separated there. He was initially assigned to security forces and later cross-trained in vehicle maintenance.
“I loved being in the military,” he said. “My grandfathers both served, so it was a dream come true.”
He said he had been hurt while in his security position and later became physically ill.
“The thing about the military is, you have a great time, but it is a hazardous duty job. Sometimes we get injured and we just need a little bit of help when leaving the military to overcome these disabilities.”
He sought medical help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and was told that use of recumbent bikes could be of assistance in speeding his recovery. Recumbent bikes place riders in reclining positions and can provide low-impact exercise as well a sense of accomplishment as the machines are controlled by the riders. Some of the machines have electric assist that allow riders to overcome disabilities and limitations they may have.
Once he began using such a bike, “it helped me greatly,” Peter Guidry said. As he slowly gained a more positive footing, he said, he realized that “the labels that they place on me like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), those are just labels. And labels are for containers, not for people.”
Returning to Southern Nevada, he and his wife obtained a loan and purchased two of the trikes in 2013.
“And here we are today with over 40 recumbent trikes just five short years later.”
Dozens of local veterans learned about Forgotten Not Gone and now gather on a weekly basis to ride and meet with others who once served. Peter Guidry said such rides provide not only a physical outlet but also an opportunity for practicing social skills. “It’s just great to have fellow veterans to have a place to go to do something like that.”
Kelley Guidry met Peter while both served in Italy; she said they were married six months later.
“I can’t get rid of him,” she joked.
Later, as civilians, she helped Peter Guidry adjust to everyday life and they learned about bike therapy together.
“To me it just seemed ridiculous, to be honest,” she said. “But (the VA) said it would help with depression and anxiety, and they were absolutely right. Within a couple of months I had my husband back, at least partially, the person that I married … That’s when I realized how much those bikes can help. And I said ‘You know what?,’ we should provide these for all veterans.”
As the project grew into the more formal Forgotten Not Gone, the couple began to attract volunteers and financial support.
“We have a few sponsors that support us. And then just getting the word out through social media and being involved in the community … the more people know about us the more they seem to want to help. That’s the majority of our money,” Kelley Guidry said.
“Our motto now is stomping out veterans suicide,” Peter Guidry said. “We want to uplift. We want to let people know that even though we are suffering, we’re taking action.”
To volunteer, donate or obtain more information and learn about how to join in the weekly rides, visit http://forgottennotgone.org or call 702-706-5777. Individuals who want to join the rides on their own two-wheeled bicycles are welcome.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.