CHICAGO — The City of Chicago was filled Saturday with more than a dozen horses with veterans on horseback, to help combat veteran suicide through a program called BraveHearts.
Ron Hathaway, a U.S. Air Force veteran, rides horses a few days a week at Brave Hearts farm in Harvard — a therapeutic riding program— helping veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We have veterans come to us with, whether it’s physical, cognitive, emotional needs. Wherever they’re coming from, whatever their struggle or challenges are, the horses just step in and help people find their greatness. They help give people joy, and peace and they help people find purpose,” Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president of BraveHearts, said.
Hathaway’s journey hasn’t always been a smooth ride.
After 24 years of active duty, he joined BraveHearts at one of the lowest points in his life.
“At that point I was suicidal,” Hathaway said. “I was ready to take my life. I had already set the date, I knew how I was going do it, when it was going to happen.”
Thanks to his wife, and some help from the horses, Hathaway is still here.
“They got me on a horse named Boone, and in the first four or five steps with that horse, I had this big ‘phew,’” he said.
On Saturday, veterans rode 20 miles through Chicago — a number that represents the 20 veterans who commit suicide each day in the United States.
They’ve done the ride in New York City and Boston and plan to ride in Houston next month.
“I just want the vets out there to know that there is help out there, reach out whether it’s to our barn or a different barn,” Hathaway said. “I knew nothing about the horses when I first started. I would’ve never through they’d work, but they did. It’s magic.”