300 Miles in 3 Days for Veterans’ Mental Health Issues

US Army Combat Vet Jake Ruch set off from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign on the south end of the Strip on April 11th to cycle 300 miles to Los Angeles—in three days. Originally planned as a ride across America, Ruch’s goal adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic by changing the starting and finishing points, but not the mission.

Ruch, who served in Iraq, wants to raise public awareness of mental health issues many returning veterans face as they transition back into civilian life and after. He and his comrade-in-arms Aaron Peeples contacted the National Veterans Foundation during the training months before the ride, selecting the NVF as the major veterans charity to receive donations they raised. When Peeples had to drop out because of injury, Ruch felt it was important to complete the mission because, “During this time of panic and isolation, veterans’ mental health becomes even more of an issue.”

NVF President and Founder Shad Meshad said, “This long-distance ride requires the same training, dedication, and commitment that Jake depended on during his deployment to Iraq. Jake’s concern for his fellow veterans is another aspect of his integrity and humanity, something we need a lot more of. We’re very proud and honored to have been selected to partner with Jake.”

Jake used live Facebook feed and video to document the journey. On the descent from the Cajon Pass into LA, he rode on the shoulder of I-15, close to a long line of semis, determined to finish on Day 3. His triumphant ride across the LA basin at night to arrive at the iconic Santa Monica Pier, closed because of Covid-19, gave him time to think. Navigating through the homeless close to the pier, he thought, “There but for the grace of God and the love and encouragement of my family, friends and especially my wife Jessica, go I.” His message to fellow vets: “Yesterday may have been a struggle, but today is a new day. Lean forward. You’ve got this.”

You can see Jake’s bike blog here. Congratulations, Jake!

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