HorseRide

Some of the participants in the “Ride a Horse, Save a Warrior” ride pass along Highway 141N on Monday morning.

A Hartsville man and his wife have launched a horse ride across Tennessee to bring awareness to the mental health needs of police, military and first responders.

Rick Martin and his wife, Amanda, began their ride Sunday near the Kentucky border just north of Westmoreland. On Monday, they rode through downtown Hartsville on their way to Lebanon. The Martins expect the ride to end Saturday at the Alabama state line.

The ride is in support of Save A Warrior, which according to its website provides counseling services in mental health and wellness, suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to veterans, military personnel, police, firefighters and first responders.

“Save A Warrior has been around for eight years. They’re trying to help end the suicide epidemic in this country for military, police and first responders,” Rick Martin said.

Martin has seen firsthand the effects of PTSD on the people Save A Warrior is trying to help. After retiring from the Metro Nashville Police Department after 20 years of service and moving to Hartsville, Martin said he struggled with feelings of depression and even attempted suicide.

Martin said he was saved when his daughter unexpectedly came home and found him and got medical help. After recovering, another retired Metro officer who had been through the program referred him to Save A Warrior.

“I was able to experience this wonderful program. They take you for five days, I was in Ohio, and they’re able to help in ways other programs can’t. The PTSD issue is serious for police, firefighters and first responders… I went there and it was a Godsend. I picked up skills and things to help me.

“Once you get through that program, you begin to understand when you’re helping other people, it’s helping you.”

After going through the program, Martin and his wife talked it over and decided a horse ride would be a good way to draw attention to the program. A trailer and personnel from the Hendersonville Police Department are accompanying the group for the entire journey.

“There’s a Facebook page — Ride a Horse, Save a Warrior — and we put this ride together. There’s about five of us doing this,” he said. “It’s to let people know this program is out there. I want to get the word out.”

Save A Warrior does not charge those it helps, but relies entirely on donations to fund its efforts. Information on the program is available on the group’s website at saveawarrior.org.

“It’s the greatest and the best gift I’ve received in my entire life,” Martin said. “Some of the skills, the techniques they teach, it’s how to keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s five or 10 minutes at a time.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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