Last year was 32-year-old Jason Wilson's first time participating in Honor Ride Ohio, and the former U.S. Army sergeant said the experience allowed him to share his story of his -- and his fellow soldiers' -- deployment in Afghanistan.

Last year was 32-year-old Jason Wilson's first time participating in Honor Ride Ohio, and the former U.S. Army sergeant said the experience allowed him to share his story of his -- and his fellow soldiers' -- deployment in Afghanistan.

"In the big picture, this is a way for me to kind of honor my brothers who were not as lucky as I was, and to help those like myself who were given a second chance," said Wilson, a Grandview resident.

Wilson, along with many other veterans and cyclists, once again will take part in Honor Ride Ohio, which will start at 8 a.m. May 28 at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, 150 W. Main St.

This is the third year for the event, said event organizer and New Albany resident Peter Horvath.

Riders will have the option to take part in 12-, 35- and 65-mile routes. The cost is $85, and veterans who suffered injuries during their service can ride free of charge.

The first Honor Ride Ohio was held in May 2014, Horvath said, and was started by Mission Essential, a government contractor that provides intelligence services to the military and the intelligence community.

At that time, Horvath worked at the company's New Albany office, and he said Mission Essential was searching for an organization to work with to help veterans recover from mental and physical trauma they experienced in war.

The company landed on Ride 2 Recovery, a national organization that helps veterans recover from war trauma, Horvath said. Although the organization originally held Honor Rides as a way to help garner publicity, Horvath helped turn the event into a fundraiser by initiating the first Honor Ride Ohio.

Money raised from rider fees, along with a fundraising event held prior to the ride, goes to Ride 2 Recovery, which in turn donates over 90 percent of its funds to veterans, Horvath said.

The first year, 500 riders participated in Honor Ride Ohio, and $140,000 was raised, he said. The next year, 900 riders participated, and $300,000 was raised.

This year's goal is to have 1,500 riders and raise $500,000.

Although Mission Essential is not running this year's event, Horvath is organizing it along with his wife, Susie, and others.

Horvath said the event gives attendees the opportunity to make meaningful contact with those who have served the U.S. in the military.

"It's cool, because you're on the road with veterans," he said.

Life after service

Wilson, who began cycling in 2008, enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in 2010. The next year, he embarked on a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan and was honorably discharged in 2014.

After returning home, Wilson said he suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including depression, anxiety, mood instability, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, all of which were complicated by an alcohol addiction.

Gradually, he realized that cycling was a way to embrace life and could be an alternative to the self-destructive path he was on, he said.

He saw a direct relationship between riding and overall wellness, he said.

"That started to open up my eyes to realizing that cycling was not just something to do for fun, but it was actually important," Wilson said.

He will be able to share that fresh perspective with others May 28.