WNY veteran completes 422 mile ride for suicide awareness

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A North Tonawanda veteran rode into Buffalo Sunday with a police escort. He was greeted by a crowd waving American flags.

U.S. Army veteran Joshua Geartz completed an emotional 422 mile ride from Angola, Indiana to Buffalo.

“It reminds me of where I was and seeing that group of people, mostly friends and family, it kind of hit me I almost gave up on all of that,” he told News 4.

Geartz served in the Army from 1999 to 2004.

In 2003, he was hit by an explosive device and suffered traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

He received an honorable discharge but struggled when he returned home. Geartz eventually attempted to take his own life.

“You get to a place where you feel like people are better off without you, that you’d be doing them a favor, you’d be helping them out by not being around,” said Geartz. “There could be nothing further from the truth than that.”

He said the organization Songwriting With Soldiers helped save his life.

Geartz uses music to tell the story of his service with the help of musician Mary Gauthier.

“Telling her stuff no one knew and I never told anybody because you’re afraid of what they’re going to think of you, or how they’re going to judge you, how they’re going to look at you after they know some of the things you did,” he explained.

Geartz said Gauthier responded by saying “I’m glad you’re here.”

He told us that working with her to create music gave him a new purpose. Their work took them to the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, where audience members told him the music changed their lives.

He’s now trying to spread a message of hope.

According to the VA, about 20 veterans die from suicide every day.

Geartz has spent the past month riding along bike trails, paths and roads to raise awareness in order to save lives. He wants to encourage other veterans to keep fighting.

“No matter how bad you think something is, how dark you think something is, you can always find a way to use it for good,” said Geartz.

He celebrated his ride at the Sportsmen’s Tavern in Black Rock. Gauthier greeted him with tears and joined him to perform their songs.

Geartz is trying to bring a Songwriting With Soldiers retreat to Buffalo.

After our story aired, Paul Billoni, the president of Colvin Cleaners, reached out to Geartz to donate $16,000 to the cause.

 

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