When service members leave the military, some find it hard to transition to civilian life. Eben Engler, an Air Force veteran, faced that himself. He served for seven years as a Weapons Systems Officer onboard a B-1 bomber.
In his free time, he joined other service members on the Air Force cycling team.
“We did a couple 500-mile rides, week-long rides,” Engler explained.
This inspired him to begin his cross-country trip. On September 1, he left San Francisco on a bicycle and set out for Charleston, South Carolina.
“Once I started formulating a plan, coming up with a route, and thinking of all the ways to do this, I immediately thought I should make it more than about me going for a ride,” Engler said.
It’ll take Engler months to complete his ride as he’s making several stops along the way. But he’s doing it all to raise awareness about veteran suicide and mental health.
“A lot of people get into a situation they feel they can not get out of,” Engler explained. “It leads to depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.”
Thousands of veterans die by suicide each year, and millions struggle with mental health issues. Engler says he saw this first hand, and wants people to know there are resources available to help them get through tough times.
“The military doesn’t last forever,” Engler said. “The situations you’re in, especially if you’re depressed or having thoughts of suicide, those come and go.”
Engler will stop in Augusta before he finishes his cross-country ride. He hopes his community can support him throughout the way. He’s partnering with Mission 22, an organization that supports the veteran community, during his trip. To learn more about how you can support him, you can visit his website or follow along with his journey on Instagram.
Mental health resources
Suicide prevention hotline: 800-273-8255