Over Memorial Day weekend, country music singer Brantley Gilbert rode with members of the Wounded Warrior Project through parts of Texas and Louisiana to help raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Army veteran Justin Patterson, who had never heard of Gilbert before, was impressed. KHOU reports:
“Take the music away, he’s one of the guys. He fell into the pack with us.”
“Every time we would stop, he would give a speech and raise the flag about the awareness of PTSD,” Patterson said. “You know, the fact is that 22 veterans a day take their own lives. And that’s just heartbreaking.”
Patterson, an Army sniper, served five tours of duty in Iraq. He earned four Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury in an IED attack, he lives with PTSD and says that riding his motorcycle – on rides like the one he met Gilbert on – is one of the few things that brings him peace.
What Gilbert is doing to help veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project affected Patterson so profoundly that he gave Gilbert the first Purple Heart he earned.
“My blood, sweat, and tears are on this, and that’s how I earned it.”
Gilbert told a Pennsylvania radio station:
“This thing means the world to me. And I found a lifelong friend named Justin Patterson.”
The two are now in touch daily.