Wilmington veteran returns home after motorcycle fundraiser

More than 15,000 miles traveled to educate veterans about suicide prevention

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington veteran who lost his brother-in-arms started a fundraiser that took him across the country, and after nearly 90 days, he’s back home , his journey was a journey of discovery.

Perry Steed was welcomed by his family of around 60 bikers on Sunday and reunited with his wife Liz and children after more than three months on the road.

“It was a long drive, and I missed his face,” Perry said.

“I feel relieved and proud and happy and all the emotions,” Liz said.

According to Perry, 50% of veterans are more likely to die by suicide, the same fate as his brother-in-arms, Sergeant Kristopher Cool.

“I didn’t have the resources in me to make the trip to pick up his ashes and bring them back,” he says.

A promise Perry made to Cool’s parents in 2012.

Perry set off in May, traveling 48 states, more than 15,000 miles stopping in Minnesota to collect Cool’s ashes and connecting with soldiers along the way.

While preparing for the trip, “Ride for Light”, he received a request from the family of specialist David Howard who lives in San Luis Obispo.

“There’s one in California who just asked me if I could bring his brother’s ashes too,” he said.

Perry brought them back to North Carolina to spread to the Sicily drop zone at Fort Bragg.

Perry’s uncle, Randy James, escorted him from Greensboro to help him complete the final leg of his trip back to Wilmington.

“I’m proud of what he’s done, to educate the military about suicide prevention,” James said. “We just lost someone in the family, so it hits close to home.”

Perry said mental health issues in military men and women need to be addressed.

“Renew those friendships that have been on the back burner for so long,” he said. “Friendship never goes away.”

The anxiety and depression shared by veterans is their reality, according to Perry.

Perry started his own nonprofit, Operation Purpose, designed to help other veterans with mental illness and to create a safe space for veterans to congregate without alcohol.

“When you can listen to someone talk and see you through their lens, you realize you know, it’s not that bad,” he said.

According to Perry, advisers are lined up to donate their time to the cause.

Perry is resting at the moment but plans to take Cool and Howard’s ashes to spread at Fort Bragg in the coming weeks.


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