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[ridermagazine.com] - Steed Rides Again for Veteran Suicide – This Time with a Crew

Just because his first mission is complete doesn’t mean the battle is over for Perry Steed. In May 2022, the former Army paratrooper set out on his first Ride for Light, hitting 48 states on his BMW R 1200 GS and carrying the ashes of two brothers in arms. His goal was to raise awareness […]

The post Steed Rides Again for Veteran Suicide – This Time with a Crew appeared first on Rider Magazine.



L-R: Perry Steed, Jason Conyers, and Bruce Knobloch getting in some practice miles before their Ride for Light to raise awareness of veteran suicide.
Just because his first mission is complete doesn’t mean the battle is over for Perry Steed. In May 2022, the former Army paratrooper set out on his first Ride for Light, hitting 48 states on his BMW R 1200 GS and carrying the ashes of two brothers in arms. His goal was to raise awareness for the issue of veteran suicide. Two years later, Steed is taking a second Ride for Light, but this time, he’s kicking it up a notch, taking the show on the road – or more appropriately, making the road into a show.

Related: Veteran Takes a 15,000-mile ‘Ride for Light’

The 2024 Ride for Light will still be under the banner of Operation: Purpose, the 501(c)(3) that Steed set up to foster and nurture a community of veterans in Wilmington, North Carolina, which has a large military population. However, the ride itself is more about the larger epidemic of veteran suicide. And this time, Steed won’t be riding alone.

“We’re a blended crew this year,” he told me. “I’ve got my battle buddy who I actually grew up with. He and I joined the Army within a couple of days of each other. We had the same job, went through basic training and AIT (advanced individual training) together, and were at Fort Bragg together.”

L-R: Perry Steed, Bruce Knobloch, and Jason Conyers.
Steed said Bruce Knobloch came to see him the night Steed’s oldest child was born, but after that the two men lost track of each other for almost 19 years until reconnecting this past summer.

Knobloch has been a motorcycle enthusiast for 20 years. When the two met up after all those years and the 2022 Ride for Light came up in conversation, Knobloch told Steed that he would’ve gone along if he had known about it.

“I told him, ‘Well, I’m doing it again.’”

The other addition to the crew is cinematographer Jason Conyers.

“When I got back from my 2022 ride, I joined the American Legion and became a Legion Rider because they really showed up and supported me,” Steed said, adding that one of the Legion Riders he met was Conyers, who was out of the Navy and had a film studies degree. “I was telling him what I was wanting to do, and he’s like, ‘Well, I’ll go with you, and I’ll document the whole thing.’”

Steed tapped some of his other resources, including a film studies professor at the University of Colorado and an art director for North Carolina PBS, who told him that once a documentary gets on one PBS station, the other states will pick it up.

“Of course, I gotta be censored a little bit,” Steed said. “I can’t just let it fly, but that’s fine.”

The 2024 Ride for Light began taking shape. There was just one glitch. On the 2022 Ride for Light, Steed had taken several opportunities to ride his GS off-road. This was something he wanted to do even more for the 2024 ride. When it came to Knobloch, Steed said if there was anyone in the high school yearbook with the caption “Least likely to own a Harley-Davidson,” it would’ve been Knobloch, yet that’s all he had owned since. He recently traded a CVO Street Glide for a Pan America.

However, Conyers had a Low Rider.

“I told him, ‘You ain’t going with me on that bike.’”

Unsure what to do, Steed got on a call with a guy he met through some restoration work Steed had done on a 1961 BMW R50S. He told Steed “consider me a friend” and offered up business advice.

1961 BMW R50S restored by Perry Steed.
“I needed someone who was not close to me that I could run some of this **** by, because everything I say, people are like ‘Yeah, man, that’s a great idea.’ I know not all my ideas are great, and I need someone who will tell me, ‘That’s freakin’ stupid.’”

During the phone call with Sean Slovenski, Steed explained Operation: Purpose and the Ride for Light, and in a stroke of good fortune, Slovenski donated two bikes: a 2010 BMW R 1200 GS with just 15,000 miles on it and a 2009 BMW R 1200 RT.

“He said, ‘Do whatever you want with the bikes,’” Steed said, adding that Slovenski recognized that the RT didn’t necessarily fit with the trip. Slovenski told Steed he could sell it to help fund the trip and that Conyers could ride the GS.

Related: Perry Steed | Ep. 52 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

With the bikes lined up, the trio set a launch date for May 18 from Beaufort, South Carolina, after they attend an event with Operation Patriots FOB, a veterans and first responders support group.

Working with Bruce on his bike, adding Denali D7 lights and a few other parts before the trip.
Steed told me the plans for the ride with a mix of excitement and reverence for the places they’ll be riding and visiting.

They’ll start with the South Carolina Adventure Route – or SCAR.

“We’re gonna ride part of that from Beaufort up to Suches, Georgia, and then we’ll head backcountry through Tennessee and Kentucky to get up to Louisville,” he said, adding that the good thing about the SCAR for someone without a lot of off-road riding experience like Conyers is that it’s mostly just two-lane road. “There’s some dirt and gravel, but nothing crazy.”

However, he said the real exciting part will be the BLM land out West.

Jason’s BMW GS in a little deeper than expected.
“You know, really getting off the beaten path, out to where there’s no lights, no light pollution, and it’s just us out there. Three guys, talking smack and eating and sleeping under the stars.”

As for their on-road plans, Steed said they intend to visit a variety of places, from veterans cemeteries to a speaking engagement at an American Legion nursing home in Minnesota to the location of a large parcel of land that is being turned into a veterans retreat by a family who lost their son to suicide.

As with the first trip, they’ll be carrying the ashes of veterans.

“There’s a really horrible statistic that I want to lay on you that will blow your mind,” Steed told me. “There’s over 3,000 unclaimed veteran remains every year. A lot of these guys – very often Vietnam vets – through whatever happens, when they die, no one is able to locate the next of kin.”

Steed said there is a nonprofit organization in Wilmington called Veterans Memorial Reef that takes ashes and inters them in an artificial reef 5 miles offshore.

“I told them I would pick up whatever I can carry along the ride. So I’m leaving room on my bike for that.”

But as Steed said in 2022, this isn’t a trip about death. It’s a trip about life, so along the way, they’ll make “buddy checks” with as many other veterans as possible, spreading hope, love, and camaraderie.

That’s the most important aspect of the ride, and Steed said even if they don’t end up making a documentary, he just wants to get these two other guys out on road.

When I first connected with Steed in 2022, he was already a couple months into his ride and had stopped in Mexican Hat, a small town in southeastern Utah that was a favorite place of his father-in-law, an important figure in Steed’s life.

When I called him this time around to talk about Ride for Light 2024, he said that just the night before, he had been replaying in his head that conversation we had almost two years ago.

“I was thinking about where I was at. I see constant reminders when I’m in my office, these little mementos from my trip, and I remember exactly where I was.”

Steed said that Conyers has been fortunate in that he’s done a few cross-country trips – but not Knobloch.

“Every veteran needs to see and experience what they fought to preserve,” he said. “I need to get these guys out on the road…and get myself back out there too.”

To learn more about the Ride for Light 2024 or to donate to the cause, visit the Operation: Purpose website or follow on Facebook.

Resources:

If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, call 911 immediately. Suicide is an emergency that requires help by trained medical professionals and should always be treated seriously.

Nationwide suicide hotlines, 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (8255), have counselors available 24/7. Other resources include Suicide.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology. All provide comprehensive information and help on the issue of suicide, from prevention to treatment to coping with loss.

The post Steed Rides Again for Veteran Suicide – This Time with a Crew appeared first on Rider Magazine.
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