Rolling Project Odyssey helps light the way home.

For some veterans, the war doesn’t end when they return home—it only begins. From physical injuries to the invisible wounds of war, returning military men and women have to heal while acclimating back to civilian life. Most often, that road to recovery requires support from fellow veterans as well as the community. For that reason, Harley-Davidson is partnering with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) for Rolling Project Odyssey—a group ride for recovering servicemen and women.

Named after Homer’s epic poem, Project Odyssey helps returning warriors overcome adversity and the impact of combat stress through outdoor retreats. Emphasizing a connection with nature, peers, and counselors, participants engage in adventure-based learning that helps them manage the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). For the Rolling Project Odyssey, Harley and WWP utilize motorcycle riding to address invisible wounds, enhance resiliency, and promote healthy lifestyles.

Sharing the common thread of motorcycling, veterans in Rolling Project Odyssey can socialize with fellow riders and expand their support network. A review by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs noted that better social support typically leads to positive mental health for veterans and the partnership between the Motor Company and WWP seeks to do just that.

“We are grateful for Harley-Davidson’s support and honored to partner with such a legendary brand as we fuel the future of Rolling Project Odyssey,” said WWP vice president of independence services and mental health and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Richardson. “Our goal is to focus warriors on their present to enable the growth of their future.”

Rolling Project Odyssey also aligns with Harley-Davidson’s recent emphasis on the mental health benefits of motorcycling. In a study funded by Harley and conducted by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, researchers found that riding a motorcycle increases focus and alertness while decreasing stress—benefits that aid in a veteran’s recovery.

The bar and shield has partnered with WWP on Rolling Project Odyssey since 2015 and the first program of 2020 will begin in Jacksonville, Florida on March 9, 2020. The route will feature a stop at Daytona Bike Week before returning to Jacksonville, Florida on March 13, 2020. While the road trip is only five-days long, it should be a big step for veterans on the long road home.

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Wounded Warrior Project and Harley-Davidson Join Forces to Help Empower Veterans Through Rolling Project Odyssey

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (March 3, 2020) – Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and Harley-Davidson Motor Company® are again hitting the road to bring Rolling Project Odyssey® to wounded veterans. 

Rolling Project Odyssey is a unique motorcycle group riding experience that aims to support veterans in their recoveries from invisible wounds of war. First partnering with WWP on the experience in 2015, Harley-Davidson is sponsoring additional group rides to extend the program to more veterans across the United States.

“We are grateful for Harley-Davidson’s support and honored to partner with such a legendary brand as we fuel the future of Rolling Project Odyssey,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Richardson, WWP vice president of independence services and mental health. “Our goal is to focus warriors on their present to enable the growth of their future. The overall Rolling Project Odyssey experience is designed to encourage warriors to face adversities of the past and accomplish goals together with peers facing similar challenges, just as they did on the battlefield.”

One of WWP’s marquee mental health programs for veterans, Project Odyssey helps warriors manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other combat stress through adventure-based learning that encourages a connection with fellow veterans and nature. In Rolling Project Odyssey, motorcycle riding becomes the catalyst for the program to provide mental health education, which aims to:

  • help warriors manage their invisible wounds,
  • teach them how to enhance their resiliency skills, and 
  • empower them to live productive and fulfilling lives.

“Rolling Project Odyssey was a life-changing experience for me,” said Jonathan Goolsby, an Army veteran who attended a previous Rolling Project Odyssey in Georgia. “The experience has taught me many things that I have been able to implement into my daily life, like finding my center and keeping my cool when things start to get tough.”

Warriors at Project Odyssey enjoy the camaraderie of engaging with their fellow veterans who have similar interests and experiences. Activities like motorcycle riding and socializing with other veterans provide an opportunity for warriors to connect and expand their support network. In a WWP survey of the wounded warriors it serves, warriors expressed they address their mental health concerns by talking to fellow veterans (41%) and physical activity (30%). A review by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes that “veterans with better social support have more positive mental health outcomes, including lower rates of suicidal ideation.”

Through Rolling Project Odyssey, veterans also experience the joys of motorcycle riding. A 2019 neurobiological study conducted by a team of three researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and funded by Harley-Davidson concluded that:

  • Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%. 
  • Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators vs non-meditators.    
  • Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee.      

“Supporting the military is ingrained in our brand’s 117-year legacy, and we take pride in working with organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project so together we can positively impact the lives of those who served,” said Jon Bekefy, general manager of brand marketing at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “We support the goals of Rolling Project Odyssey and are excited to share with our country’s service men and women the joys of motorcycle riding and the attributes that are synonymous with two wheels – community, support, and personal freedom.”  

The first Rolling Project Odyssey of 2020 will take place March 9 -13. The journey will start and finish in Jacksonville, Florida, where WWP headquarters are located, and feature a stop in Daytona for Bike Week, which kicks off riding season in the U.S. each year. Learn more about WWP’s Project Odyssey program.

Contact: Jon Blauvelt, jblauvelt@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9756

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.