Over Memorial Weekend, Country Music Star and American Patriot Brantley Gilbert rode with members of the Wounded Warrior Project through parts of Texas and Louisiana to help raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veteran Army sniper, Justin Patterson was a part of that ride as well. Patterson, who served five tours of duty in Iraq and 2 years in Afghanistan, earned four Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts, said he had never even heard of Brantley Gilbert before the ride. An admission that surely bruised the country stars ego a bit I’m sure, but what Gilbert did during the course of that ride touched Patterson’s grizzled Army veteran heart profoundly.
Patterson had this to say about Gilbert,
“Take the music away, he’s one of the guys. He fell into the pack with us.”
“Every time we would stop, he would give a speech and raise the flag about the awareness of PTSD,” Patterson said. “You know, the fact is that 22 veterans a day take their own lives. And that’s just heartbreaking.”
After sustaining a traumatic brain injury in an IED attack, Patterson lives with PTSD and says that riding his motorcycle – on rides like the one where he met Gilbert – is one of the few things that brings him peace. He was so moved by what Gilbert did during that ride that he wanted to give him something to show his appreciation and when he did, he melted the hearts of everyone around.
Gilbert told a Pennsylvania radio station:
“This thing means the world to me. And I found a lifelong friend named Justin Patterson.”
The two reportedly now keep in touch daily. Here is the original video of Patterson presenting Gilbert with the Purple Heart.
In case you missed it, Patterson also offered to be Gilbert’s date for the Country Music Awards, saying
“If you need a date for the Country Music Awards, I’m your girl!”
The bit of humor really drove home the pain, sadness and hope all wrapped up in that small, but definitely NOT insignificant gift.