Justin Morin knows how Iraq changed the lives of those who served and fought there.
“Our wives and our kids see what we go through day by day,” Morin said. “They see the frustration, the stress and the anger sometimes, things they don’t need to see.”
He wants to do something to help those who have returned and are coping with lives shaped by memories of trauma.
Operation Hard Ride, as the fundraising effort is called, plans to use the donations to pay for the motorcycles and two recreational vehicles that will allow the veterans’ families to accompany the motorcycles on the journey.
In early March, Morin was just beginning the online fundraising effort and far from the financial goal. He had also to find the help he hopes to receive from those willing to donate motorcycle parts, supervise the construction and provide a place to build the motorcycles.
“I’m optimistic because we’ll never quit on it,” he said, seated across from his wife, Shanna, in a Helena coffee shop as two of their three children that they had with them played and the other one slept in a portable car seat/carrier.
“It may take a couple of years, but it’s going to get done,” he added.
“I know we’ll never quit on it.”
The last stop for the caravan of motorcycles and recreational vehicles is to be Ground Zero, the site where the twin towers of World Trade Center stood before being toppled by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I just think we need to go there to pay our respects,” Morin said.
The attack claimed the lives of more than 2,600 people in New York and the surrounding area.
This is a place that he’s said he’s always wanted to visit but been emotionally reluctant to go there.
Attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a failed attack on either the Capitol or the White House resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people, according to online sources, and propelled the nation into war.
“9/11 for me was a huge deciding factor in my military career,” said Morin, who tallied more than nine years of service in active duty, reserves and the Army National Guard.
Morin served 465 days in Iraq and was an all-wheel vehicle mechanic whose duties also included security work at the front gate to his base.
“You don’t know who’s driving up or who’s walking up,” he said of what risks those guarding the gate faced.
Stress wasn’t something handled while serving in Iraq, he said.
“The most stressful part is now,” he explained. “In Iraq you get comfortable with the fact that you might not make it back. You do what you have to do.”
But once returning home, veterans can see how Iraq changed them, Morin said and added, “I’m still learning stuff about myself today and fixing things for my family.”
Operation Hard Ride was born out of a realization that something needed to change not only in his life, Morin said, but for the families that support veterans. - Independent Record
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