The Dirt Therapy Project

I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with mountain biking but growing up in Utah there certainly was no shortage as far as exposure to the sport was concerned. By the time I was 16, I was ready for my first “nice” bike. I got a paper route and saved my money until I could buy a 2004 Kona Stinky. I was sure that I would be participating in Rampage one day, and I did so many stupid things with that bike, I’m surprised I lived to tell the tale.

After being off the bike for a couple years while serving a Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I decided to follow a lifelong dream and I enlisted in The Marine Corps. When my unit started asking for volunteers for an upcoming deployment, I jumped at the opportunity. I ended up attached to the now infamous 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment, known as Darkhorse. As some might recall, 3/5 suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit over 10 years of war. We lost 25 Marines in just over 3 months. 3/5 was all over the news. After every death, command(?) would shut down outbound communication for a time. I couldn’t even get a hold of my wife to let her know I was ok. It was intense.

Two years after I returned home from Afghanistan, I left the Marines to pursue my undergraduate degree in San Antonio, Texas. Like most veterans, I found the transition from military service to civilian life difficult. I felt like I was doing it alone. For a few years, it was just me working through my deployment experiences, my service in the Marine Corps, and trying to figure out what it’s like to be back in the civilian world. It wasn’t until I finished my undergrad, got a job in corporate America, and was knee deep in graduate school that I realized I didn’t have an outlet to manage my stress in a healthy way.

My need led directly to the creation of The Dirt Therapy Project. After 3-4 months of getting reacquainted with biking on the trails of San Antonio. I started to invite anyone and everyone to come out riding with me. One of those people was a co-worker, running buddy, and a retired Marine Corps Lt Colonel. I started bouncing ideas off him, discussing the military transition, and how to better support veterans. Within 6 months after buying my bike on Craigslist, the idea for TDPT was born.

When I originally imagined this program, I was thinking small. I thought our reach would extend to San Antonio veterans and not really much beyond that. Now that we are almost three years in, our program is in 5 states, we host bi-annual multi day riding trips for 15-20 veterans where all expenses are covered and have a growing online presence.

 I feel so grateful to all the individuals and organizations that have believed in our mission enough to support what we are doing. For more information about out program, please find us on Facebook or Instagram (under the same name) and we would be happy to connect. Happy trails! Jonathan Hagerman