NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — “Making a difference in the lives of healing heroes” is a motto the Ride 2 Recovery organization members live by and one that Staff Sgt. Brent Olson, 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron military working dog instructor, set out to honor during the Las Vegas Ride 2 Recovery Honor Ride Nov. 9.
Olson is a part of TEAM BLEK, in honor of Military Working Dog Blek, who was patrolling with him through a known hostile village in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when they were both struck by an improvised explosive device.
Olson and MWD Blek had been engaged off and on in a number of skirmishes and located 17 IEDs on their third day of patrolling Sept. 13, 2010. At approximately 9 p.m. while clearing the last structure in their sector, an adversary triggered a pressure plate IED that initiated four other devices leaving three killed in action and 13 wounded in action, including Olson and MWD Blek, who were both transported to the Kandahar Airfield hospital where they began their recovery.
The Ride 2 Recovery Honor Rides mission is to improve the health and wellness for wounded, injured or ill servicemen and women with cycling as the core activity. It gives the public the opportunity to ride with healing heroes and enlisted military on a non-competitive, fun ride. In Olson’s case, the opportunity presented itself as a 39-mile bike ride through the Las Vegas cityscape.
“All this is for a good cause,” Olson said. “It’s honorable to be with other wounded warriors who are on the same path of recovery.
“My experience was great. I’m a very passionate person when it comes to certain things, and this was a good one. I was very pleased on how well I did. I proved something to myself.”
Olson didn’t participate in the endeavor for himself, but rather for others who are likewise recovering or have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s all about the people next to you,” Olson said. “I [didn’t] even do it for me, I dedicate it to the people that died or never came back.”
Tiffini Skuce, Ride 2 Recovery social media representative and photographer, sees Olson’s reason for participation to be exactly what Ride 2 Recovery is trying to emphasize.
“Olson’s story is exactly what Ride 2 Recovery is about, healing and growing,” Skuce said. “Riding a bike is a great way to exercise, but riding a bike at a Ride 2 Recovery event lets you ride with your fellow veterans building camaraderie and motivation to keep riding. The person next to you might be missing both legs, but he or she is still out there on a bike, providing inspiration.
“We ride as groups so people can get to know other riders, share stories, build friendships and find advice about things only other injured service members can relate to,” she added.
Olson believes that those who are recovering should pace themselves during recovery and not give up.
“Take it a day at a time,” Olson said. “I think that’s a lesson I still deal with today. Get help, and don’t be afraid to ask or find someone you can connect with.”
Olson was able to adopt MWD Blek in 2010 and hasn’t left his side since.
“I love that dog, you know … I love that dog more than anything,” Olson chuckled.