Project Hero rider Mark Gutierrez

Project Hero rider Mark Gutierrez in Florence on his way down the Oregon coast.

NORTH BEND — Combat veteran Mark Gutierrez rode through North Bend on bicycle on U.S. Highway 101 in October, and stopped in the city as part of his cross country journey to raise awareness and funds for Project Hero.

Project Hero is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and first responders struggling with traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.

Combat veteran Mark Gutierrez rides over the Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge into North Bend by bicycle on U.S. Highway 101 in October and…

After serving almost 12 year in the U.S. Navy, and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as an explosive ordinance disposal officer, retired Lieutenant Commander Gutierrez began to show TBI and PTSD symptoms.

While serving his last duty station, Gutierrez began to experience complications from combat-related injuries that included black outs, lack of sleep and problems with daily functioning. 

Unfortunately, that put an end to his naval career.

Gutierrez began taking part in Project Hero’s Walter Reed HUB therapy programs in 2017. He is an expert cyclist who has ridden many small tours, but this is his first time riding coast to coast.

"I learned about Project Hero while receiving treatment at Walter Reed," Gutierrez said on his Project Hero page. "I was able to see the impact the organization had on wounded warriors. Moved by their mission, I wanted to help them any way I could."

Gutierrez began his 5,000 mile cross country journey in Washington D.C. back in May. He has traveled through the Midwest and is planning to arrive in San Diego to complete his journey in November. He has always enjoyed biking and bike touring and felt it would be the best way for him to raise funding and awareness for veterans who deal with TBI and PTSD.

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While in town, Gutierrez was honored by the North Bend City Council at their Oct. 22 council meeting.

More about Project Hero

Founded in 2008, Project Hero is a groundbreaking national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and first responders affected by PTSD, TBI and injury achieve rehabilitation, recovery and resilience in their daily lives and increasing awareness to combat the national mental health emergency posed by PTSD and TBI.

Project Hero programs including Ride 2 Recovery events and Project Hero HUB Community Centers produce positive outcomes at lower costs and reduce drug-based therapies. The organization also builds and provides adaptive bikes to physically challenged and injured veterans and first responders and founded the Project Hero Institute for Mental Health to support clinical research programs in 2016.

Ride 2 Recovery started when a recreational therapist with the Veterans Administration thought cycling would be an effective alternative therapy for PTSD and TBI treatment as well as physical injury rehabilitation. In 2016, to better serve the needs of America's healing heroes and integrate community and research programs, under the leadership of the Board of Directors, the organization was re-named and re-branded as Project Hero.

Veterans ride for free in Project Hero Challenge events and they have become so popular the organization established a limit of 200 participants per event, attesting to the power of Project Hero and its programs.

In addition to the popular Challenge events, Project Hero also hosts more than a dozen single-day Honor Rides in major markets throughout the nation inviting communities to ride with America’s finest and special events including the innovative Project Hero Women’s Initiative and Project Hero Mountain Bike Experience in Las Vegas. The organization also hosts community-based HUB programs inviting veterans and first responders to connect and ride together in more than 45 cities throughout the US.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.