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Project Hero: Veterans riding 450 miles spreading message of strength and unity

Project Hero: Veterans riding 450 miles spreading message of strength and unity

About 100 veterans are on a bike ride from Tallahassee to New Orleans.

It's part of a peer-to-peer counseling program, called Project Hero, designed to help veterans deal with the trauma of war.

Veterans from all branches started the 450-mile ride in Tallahassee fighting headwinds and heavy rains. However, their goal is not the destination.

Rows of bikes, frames, and gears were checked, air pressure inspected.

Day two of the ride is from Fort Walton Beach to Orange Beach.

Joe Coddington, who helps organize these rides across the country, said they are essential.

"We have over 60 percent of participants reduce their prescription medication almost everybody is able to remove themselves from the addictive ones like the opioids a lot of the sleep medications," Coddington said.

Organizers hope the ride itself opens hearts and minds to help.

"One of the unique things, because we ride for so long, we ride two by two, so there's peer-to-peer therapy going on. We get them tired, so the emotional walls break down and they start to really share their stories and they feel comfortable because we are a family here," Coddington said.

They take off heading west on Highway 98.

In the pack is Sharika Blockett. She served in the Army.

"It's been a crazy story of how it all began two and a half years ago, a friend asked me to go cycling and I said, 'Are you crazy?'" Blockett recalled.

But a story with a positive outcome. She began to fight back against a dependency on alcohol.

"So, I have been sober for two and a half years since I've been with this program. You know, alcohol abuse and drug abuse are very rampant in the military, so I've been able to maintain my sobriety," Blockett said.

The real goal of this ride.

"Refreshing, calming and you are in a place where everyone understands everything that is going on at any given time," Blockett said.

They will bike until they reach the Superdome in New Orleans, where they will get welcomed to the city by the New Orleans Saints.

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