Military members race for PTSD, suicide awareness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Larissa Greatwood
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

After returning from a 2014 deployment, Staff Sgt. Aaron Nagy, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Ground Operations School Joint Terminal Attack Controller instructor, began looking for a hobby--an outlet to relieve stresses of the deployment-- so he bought a four-wheeler. What he didn’t expect to find was a group of like-minded veterans who found that racing was a healthy way to relieve stress.

 “While searching for an ATV, I found this amazing organization that allows me to do something I enjoy and meet other veterans who have similar struggles,” he said. “For us, being able to race helps us focus on something other than our daily stresses. There’s often a stigma with [post-traumatic stress disorder] and we’re trying to eliminate that.”

Nagy started racing with Vigilant Vet Racing while stationed in the U.S. two years ago. Now stationed here, he hopes to bring this opportunity to veterans in Germany.

“We introduce vets to off-road riding and racing as an alternative means to address symptoms associated with PTSD and other issues,” said Rick Proctor, VVR founder and executive director. “Veterans get out on the trails on a bike, ATV or other machine and their problems get pushed to the back of their mind which provides relief. There is also a pretty intense adrenaline rush associated with riding a machine off-road.”

Some crave the adrenaline rush they feel while serving in a combat zone, said Proctor, who created VVR after returning from a deployment in 2004 with PTSD.

“Once away from that atmosphere, we can have a hard time adjusting to the slower pace of civilian life, he said. “Some of us turn to destructive lifestyles to try to replicate the rush we felt in combat, which is obviously bad. Riding and especially racing can provide that rush without the danger of ruining ones health or life. Vets also miss the camaraderie they had with their peers while serving in the military. Most of the veterans who have joined our race team have rediscovered that sense of fellowship while participating in riding and racing off-road as there is a huge community of riders and a lot of them are veterans.”

 Proctor said there are large group of participants in the U.S., especially on the east coast, but he’d like to see it expand overseas.

By taking the result of rough patches of their past, veterans who enjoy racing dirt bikes and ATVs can utilize this outlet to meet others while participating in a therapeutic hobby.

For more information or to join the team, contact Nagy at DSN 478-6085 or at 06371-405-6085 or e-mail