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A Call to Arms: More Vets on Bikes

Before I head to the gym in the morning I like to check the box's page for the workout. Today, the warmup included something called Chalk Up for Burpees. I didn't realize what I was in for until I was there, and found myself doing as many burpees as possible for seven minutes. But the thing that stood out was writing who were we honoring on the floor, so every time our chests hit the ground, we got a reminder of why were were there.

This got my wheels turning. What does BMX do for Veterans? How do we honor or thank the people that selflessly served? What can BMX do, as a community to support those that have supported us?

I did some research, US News and World Report sites that from the three latest American conflicts, some 11-20% of Veterans are experiencing PTSD, with that number rising greatly when look back towards the Vietnam era conflicts.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among veteran varies depending on which conflict a service member was involved with.
About 11 to 20 out of every 100 veterans (or between 11 and 20%) who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year. About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans (15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD when the most recent study of them (the National Vietnam Veteran Readjustment Study) was conducted in the late 1980s. It’s believed that 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

What does that have to do with BMX? Frontiers in Psychiatry, a leading psychiatric news and medical reporting page, did a recent study on Exercise Intervention and PTSD, with some pretty astounding results.

Aerobic exercise is a low-cost, widely accessible activity known to provide multiple health benefits, including cardiovascular health and musculoskeletal health, as well as reduced rates of co-morbidity and mortality (28). Moreover, aerobic exercise is not associated with the stigma of standard mental health treatment (19). There is growing evidence of the beneficial effects of exercise on mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety (32, 33, 35, 36). ... Thus, in the absence of medical contraindications for exercise, providers for patients with PTSD may consider prescribing aerobic exercise... However, there are multiple psychological, cognitive, and neurobiological routes that may underpin exercise-induced improvements in PTSD.

While it may seem that the community as a niche market is currently taxed with getting KIDS on bikes- as should the focus be- but what about if we could market to adults? Every single American Veteran has a background in some sort of fitness training, if only for basic enlistments. BMX can offer a strong group of like-minded people in pursuits of individual excellence, something that may help those transitioning out of their active military lives. BMX is also very good exercise! Can you imagine applying the results as noted above from Frontiers in Psychiatry to the demographics needing the exercise outlet? In comparison to many sports, entry level BMX riding or racing is low cost and the point of entry is merely track access. Equipment is generally available through the local facility.

I couldn't think of any programs directly off hand geared towards BMX and the American Veteran communities; a Google search returned nada.

So now I ask of you readers: What can we do for our Veterans through BMX? I'd love to hear your ideas or find information on any programs currently in place. Don't forget to send this to a Veteran friend and ask for their advice- or invite them, and their families, out to the track!

Thank you Veterans. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


About three years ago at Cajun Nationals we met Navy veteran Douglas and his son, Tucker Harwell. We did a quick Journal sessions interview, which focused on their sponsor and I wanted to look back on that today as it is poignant for Veteran's Day.

I don’t know how to justify taking a three year old across the country racing bicycles. It’s a great opportunity for him. It’s something that he loves. We’re not really pushing it. We tell him there’s a big race coming up and he wants to go. He wants to be with his friends and be part of the crowd. Nationals give us more opportunity to allow Tucker to race with more kids closer to his age. Yeah he might be three and the youngest kid out there, but he’s giving it all he’s got.

I didn’t think I would be taking a three year old on cross country trips to race bicycles. There’s three nationals on our schedule for this year. We’ll see what next year brings us.

The plan is for him to stay in it and see how he does. It’s recreational for me, but it’s all for Tucker. The hard part is the waiting. He doesn’t want to wait to be on the track. Tucker always wants to be on the track, doing laps.

We didn’t make it to Grands last year because he broke his arm on the trampoline. A cast and three pins.

Annie Nelson does American Soldier Network. She helps the guys that are coming back. Every year they do stockings for vets in the hospital. She’s been doing it for five or six years and takes 500 to 1000 stockings to the VA. They bring awareness to things like the 22 veterans a day that are lost to PTSD. One of the things I love is how much love they have for the military. When we race we want to tag all the military branches. Tucker is called the Junior Patriot. We want to show that we have this little three year old representing the troops. We wear the American Soldier Network name to help promote donations and awareness.

Doug Harwell is a Navy Veteran and we thank him, and all who serve, for our freedoms.

Please visit their website at

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