Annual 9/11 ride to call attention to post-traumatic stress disorder

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/ Sun-Gazette Father John Manno, at left, blesses the Fallen Warrior cards that will be handed out to riders before the annual 9-11 Memorial Ride. The cards carry 6,860 names of soldiers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001. From left of Manno are Mark Porten, Joe Pulizzi, Thomas “Tank” Baird, Charlene Pulizzi and Nisha Brelsford.

The 17th annual 9/11 Memorial Ride on Monday evening will do more than just create congestion on roads throughout Lycoming County.

It also will call attention to veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Marc Cavalli, of Joint Task Force 22 to Zero, a non-profit that looks to educate veterans, law enforcement and first responders of the impacts of PTSD and service member suicide, will speak as part of the event.

For those participating, honoring those who lost their lives during the attacks and those who sacrificed their lives in response is more than enough reason to strap on a helmet. But for many who volunteer to serve their country, coming back home has its own problems, with many veterans suffering from PTSD long after they’re back from the war zone.

“We are always looking for a guest speaker that is topical and that we can tie to 9/11,” said Todd Winder, a member of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition that holds each year’s event. “Since 9/11, we’ve been involved in the war on terror. We are losing 22 veterans a day to suicide … PTSD is a severe threat.”

Joint Task Force 22 to Zero was founded by Cavalli last year and started as a 22-kilometer ruck march in Nay Aug Park in Scranton to raise awareness of service member suicide and PTSD.

A correctional officer, Cavalli served in the Army for 14 years with two deployments in Iraq. He attempted suicide multiple times and knows first-hand what his fellow veterans may be going through. During the year, the non-profit’s Facebook page acts as a gathering place for veterans who need someone to talk with, according to Cavalli.

“Our organization right now is a virtual shoulder for anyone who puts on a uniform everyday,” Cavalli said. “If they aren’t ready to talk to someone, we have veteran service officers who can point them in the right direction. We are not a place to go for help but we are certainly there as a guide to the people that will get you help.”

According to Thomas “Tank” Baird, a founding member of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition, veterans make up a large number of the riders each year.

Winder said he has known four correctional officers who were also veterans who committed suicide. The problem is getting worse, he said.

“There’s been way too many suicides in the last couple of years with people who are veterans or who are correctional officers,” he said.

Along with Cavalli, Alivia Tagliaferri, filmmaker of “Remember. Honor. Ride,” a documentary about the founding of the 9/11 Memorial Ride, will speak.

The ride begins at 6 p.m. following a memorial service and speakers at 5 p.m. at the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Co. on Route 54. Gates open at noon for registration.

Motorists who need to be on the road may want to plan their travels around the route to avoid the congestion that comes with each year’s ride.

The ride will travel west on Route 54 to Route 15, where it will head north to South Williamsport. Riders will turn left onto West Southern Avenue in the borough, continuing on Riverside Drive to Euclid Avenue to Arch Street. Crossing Arch Street into Williamsport, riders will turn right onto West Third Street and travel through the city and Loyalsock Township and into Montoursville, where it becomes Broad Street and eventually Lycoming Mall Drive. The ride will turn onto Route 220 north to Hughesville, where it will connect with Route 405 south into Muncy and Montgomery, the Route 54 back to the starting point.