Disclosure: the author is a volunteer for the Veterans Charity Ride, which is a topic featured in this article. The author also knows the interviewee personally.
It’s July again and that means the Sturgis Rally is upon us, but for me and a small group that means the Veterans Charity Ride (VCR). Billed as “the next great American tradition,” VCR takes wounded and amputee veterans from Moab, Utah, on a unique adventure through the Rocky Mountains and up to the Black Hills of South Dakota for the Iconic rally.
While they kick off with rafting, horseback riding, and off-roading on the slick rocks of Utah, the bulk of the adventure is spent on Indian motorcycles, some equipped with Champion sidecars, exploring the country these veterans swore an oath to defend.
One such veteran is Darius Wallace, who was on the ride in 2020 and now returns this year as a veteran mentor, giving back to the charity that gave so much to him. Darius is a 24 year Navy veteran and will be on transport duty, trading two wheels for ten as he pulls the VCR support trailer.
We caught up with Darius while he was prepping things at home before embarking on this year’s ride and were able to ask him about his time in the Navy, his time with VCR, and what brings him back this year.
RBMA: Tell us a little about your time in the service and how you were injured.
DW: I served 24 years on active duty in the US Navy working highly classified missions doing Cryptology. I have typical military Injuries including a broken ankle and torn rotator cuff just to name a couple. I have yet to reach a comfort level discussing other physical and possible mental injuries.
RBMA: What have you been involved with since separating from the military?
DW: I am a full-time federal government employee. I coach middle school wrestling and high school football. I’m still active with weightlifting and motorcycle riding, karaoke, writing…
RBMA: Where do you currently live?
DW: Charlotte, NC
RBMA: How did you find out about VCR?
DW: Word of mouth from a fellow veteran, Marilyn Sabol [alumni from the first VCR in 2014 and another veteran mentor.]
RBMA: What did you expect when you first arrived at VCR? How was it different or the same from what you expected?
DW: My initial concern was there would be a bunch of “wild and crazy” vets looking to exert penned-up emotions on society.
It turned out to be a wonderful, therapeutic event! Yes, there were still “wild and crazy” vets but we were bonding, sharing, caring with one another, which is something hard to find since retiring from active duty.
RBMA: What are some of the stand-out memories from your ride?
DW: Seeing a brother get back in the saddle after not believing he’d be able to ride was definitely the best highlight! He felt the support being provided which gave him the courage needed. The joy on his face was priceless.
Other moments were when we rode through certain towns: the locals welcomed us in a manner that showed their appreciation for veterans. [Another thing was] being on the open roads with veterans who had “been there & done that” gave me a sense of family [and] joy… extremely therapeutic.
RBMA: What made you want to come back as a veteran mentor?
DW: To be a part of this great annual therapeutic ride is an honor that I strongly desire to share and inspire other veterans to participate. This event offers peace of mind in a loving, caring and inspirational manner; I believe every veteran deserves such an experience and I want to be a part of sharing this with my fellow veterans.
RBMA: Do you see any qualities in VCR’s program that make it stand out from other programs?
DW: The VCR program shows they care through interactions with veterans. There is no political “mumbo jumbo.”
Veterans begin arriving in Moab on July 28th to gear up for their adventure. Things start off in Castle Valley, Utah at the Red Cliff Lodge so the vets can get to know each other, take a familiarization riding course on the Indian motorcycles they’ll be riding, and enjoy the area.
Some photos were provided by @saralibertephotography.
And if you really want to follow the ride, you can download the REVER app for free and join the Veterans Charity Ride community and challenge to track the ride and stay updated on where the group is. VCR doesn’t release the ride itinerary until just before the vets are on the road, but it’s not meant to be a secret. Supporters are encouraged to meet up with the riders if they’re coming through your area and ride along for a section.
Those interested will be able to follow the ride through VCR’s Facebook and Instagram feeds, as well as through Russ Brown’s Instagram, where I will be doing occasional posts and daily updates to the “stories” feed, as well as Instagram Live videos where you can meet some of the vets on the ride and get behind the scenes. This will be my fifth year as a veteran mentor and sidecar pilot for the official ride photographer, Sara Liberte, who gets amazing shots while embedded within the ride as we move through America. And if you really want to follow the ride, you can download the REVER app for free and join the Veterans Charity Ride community and challenge to track the ride and stay updated on where the group is. VCR doesn’t release the ride itinerary until just before the vets are on the road, but it’s not meant to be a secret. Supporters are encouraged to meet up with the riders if they’re coming through your area and ride along for a section.
Those who can’t join the ride but want to still support VCR’s efforts can still do so by going to their website and donating, or joining the mailing list and trying to meet up with us at Sturgis. We’ll only be there the first few days to kick off the rally but we’ll be riding in the Black Hills and exploring Sturgis, Deadwood, Custer, and of course the famous Buffalo Chip while we’re there.
By: Johnny Killmore