A veteran in Colcord, Oklahoma suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and nearly took his own life two years ago, but thanks to a veteran motorcycle group called the Patriot Guard Riders of Oklahoma he will never think about hurting himself again.
“PTSD is feeling like you lose everything you used to enjoy doing,” said Larry “Turtle” Hurt.
Hurt goes by his nickname, “Turtle.” The name dates back to his high school football days as a fast linebacker, he could outrun the quarterback. Turtle served in the United States Army overseas in Iraq in 1990-1991 during Desert Storm.
The memories are painful for him and he was diagnosed with PTSD four years ago. Two years ago his father, a World War II veteran, passed away. Turtle’s dad was his best friend and they shared a special bond.
“When I lost my dad, I would sit there and stare at the walls and I couldn't find a reason to live for,” said Turtle. “I wasn't contributing to society any, depression really set in really bad. I really, really considered suicide.”
It was shortly after his darkest moments he would soon gain a whole new family. A friend told him about the Patriot Guard Riders in Arkansas. The PGR is a group of veterans and non-veterans who honor our military service men and women. They go on “missions.” Some missions are funeral processions some are homecomings, some are military parades and they also include a number of special military activities that honor America’s heroes. The PGR form flag lines wherever they go and honor our military.
One day Turtle and his friend decided to attend a mission in Tulsa held by the Patriot Guard Riders of Oklahoma. They enjoyed the mission and noticed how the many of the riders hung out afterwards together.
“I remember when we left that day, a Tulsa rider named, Tommy Johnson said, ‘I'd like to recognize these two riders riding all the way from Arkansas for this mission.’ That just stuck to me and I thought, ‘that is the group I want to ride with.’”
So he did. He continued coming and developed a strong friendship with at least four or five of the other riders.
“It just developed into a friendship at first and then it kept growing into a family now,” said Turtle.
“We are more like one than even brothers,” said another PGR veteran, Ron Moseley. “Anyone of us will do anything for any of the others.”
“I am trying to find the words so you can understand it,” said another PGR veteran rider, Greg Martin. “It's not easy. I'd give my life for anyone of these guys.”
Turtle also suffers from a side effect of PTSD called Dissociative Fugue. He describes it like he “loses his mind.” The condition is similar amnesia. He checks out and drives to a far away city and has bought new clothes that he would never wear, and would check into a hotel and seemingly start a new life. According to studies, the “amnesia” can last up to months or years.
“One time I ended up in Clarksville, Arkansas and I don't know how I got there or anything,” said Turtle. “These guys came from Tulsa to Clarksville, Arkansas to get me. They are just like my brothers, I would do anything in the world for them and they would do anything for me.
“We are going to take care of him, and he'd do the same for us,” said David Priest. “We just don't understand what PTSD is, I don't think anybody does.”
“If it wasn't for the patriot guard I probably wouldn't be here,” said Turtle.
Another source of therapy for Turtle are beaded key chains that he makes. He started making them after he saw a mother PGR member with one.
“This is Korea, this is Vietnam, this is World War II, this is Afghanistan,” said Turtle as he pulled out colored key chains from different bags in the back of his patriot motorcycle.
He takes them with him everywhere he goes and hands them out to veterans.
“On days that I don't do missions, I make key chains,” said Turtle.
Turtle’s wife of almost 40 years, Lana Hurt has to be strong when she is handling her husband’s PTSD.
“He is my best friend,” said Lana. “He has been for 39 years.”
But after 39 years, she cannot do what the Patriot Guard Riders can do for him after knowing him for less than two years. She realizes she has to step aside and let that new patriotic bond they share take over because when the PGR Priest and Jim Taylor, another veteran friend of the group, chased after Turtle and found him in Clarkesville, he recognized their faces and came back to himself. But hours earlier when he was on the phone with Lana he could not even recognize her voice.
“If it wasn't for the guys and the Patriot Guard Riders I don't know that he would be here,” said Lana.
She is grateful for them.
The hardest part for the riders is making sure they do not make a mistake when they handle Turtle’s condition. They know they are responsible for him, and they fear they might crack under the pressure of disarming an internal battle like PTSD.
“It scares me to death,” said Moseley. “I'm afraid ill do something wrong.”
But he is not afraid to try. These veterans will never give up on Turtle and he will never give up on them.
“Now I feel like I can give back something,” said Turtle. “I have got something to live for now.”
If you are a military member who is suffering in any way, with or without diagnosed PTSD get in touch with the Patriot Guard Riders of Oklahoma. It would be an honor for them to help you.
Here is a link to their website:
PGR of OK Facebook page: