HAMILTON – A recently retired veteran and her daughter are raising funds for other veterans who need to heal. The duo are riding their motorcycles 12,000 miles, and passed through Hamilton on Thursday to visit a cousin.
This spring, Laurie Enright retired from the Air National Guard and sold her business in Arizona.
Meanwhile, her daughter, Molly Michael, graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in anthropology.
For decades, the family had a “no motorcycle riding” policy, but in May the duo bought motorcycles, took the National Motor Cycle Safety Course and launched a four-month ride across the United States and Canada to raise funds for the Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness.
“Twenty-two veterans a day are committing suicide,” said Enright. “To put that into perspective, that’s one almost every hour.”
Enright knows somewhat of what veterans feel. She said that since 9/11, the United States has been involved in almost 14 years of non-stop combat.
“That takes a toll,” she said. “Whether you’re serving four years or all that time, the toll on the veterans is heavy. I think a lot of people recognize that, but think the VA will take care of them.
“The Boulder Crest Retreat is the first privately funded retreat. We met the founder before it was anything but cement in the ground. He’s retired Navy EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and he’s seen a lot of amputees and a lot of people coming back from the war, and he and his wife were just inviting people to their beautiful home in Virginia. Walter Reed is right nearby, and they made it possible for veterans to get out of the hospital for a few days because some of them stay for months or years.”
Enright said the founder expanded and opened 37 acres and built cabins and a central meeting place to host veterans who need a special place to heal – physically and emotionally – and they now offer counseling, therapeutic riding, gardens, meditation areas and more to meet the need.
“It is in beautiful rural Virginia – it is a sanctuary with golden-red trees,” said Michael. “It’s a perfect place.”
“A combat veteran and their family or Gold Star families can go there for free,” said Enright. “They can be there together as a family with no additional support, or there is everything available if they want. It is beautiful and designed for handicapped accessibility – that just looks like a cabin. It gives me goosebumps it’s so well thought out.”
The duo started their ride Memorial Day in Tempe, Arizona, and plan to conclude the first week in September in Warrenton, Virginia. They ride 120 to 350 miles a day and prefer the state roads to see the country. So far, they have seen the Western states, Alaska, Canada and came to Hamilton for a quick visit with cousin Suzy Pliley, who lives in The Arbors.
They have experienced some detours due to fires and road construction and have enjoyed the kindness of strangers. Next, they plan to go past the Great Lakes, Quebec, the Northern states and Eastern Seaboard. After they arrive in Warrenton, they plan to fly back to Arizona.
The route and navigation is plotted and planned by Enright – a job she did with the military.
“I’m the mission planner - the gas stops, the weather, the road conditions, watching for wildlife,” said Enright. “I was a navigator on C130s in special ops and my job was to plan everything. I view this as exactly like a mission and it is exhausting – on a motorcycle, you are really paying attention.”
Due to their petite frames, mom and daughter purchased shorter motorcycles.
“We’re riding the same motorcycle as Steve McQueen – Triumph Bonneville T100 Black – not really designed for comfortable riding,” said Enright. “They are a bit retro – 1960s-‘70s and we did few modifications.”
For more information, visit the duo’s website thelongridehome.org. They have a Go Fund Me button that funds their ride but Boulder Crest Retreat is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so all direct donations are tax deductable. To fund BCR directly go to bouldercrestretreat.org.
The riders have raised $35,000 and have a goal of $292,000 – the cost of keeping the Boulder Crest Retreat cabins full of veterans and their families for one year.
“Help us to heal heroes,” Enright and Michael said.