Turns for Troops: Building Stronger Futures for Military Veterans
The IndyCar program benefits SoldierStrong, which helps injured vets walk again
In 2017, just before the singing of the national anthem at the Indianapolis 500, Army veteran Dan Rose did something he once thought he would never do again: He stood. Rose, who was paralyzed from the waist down during a tour in Afghanistan, had help from a state-of-the-art exoskeleton provided by the nonprofit SoldierStrong, a United Rentals partner.
“I had given up on walking and thought of it as a pipe dream,” Rose said. “The first time I stood up [I realized] I’d forgotten what it was like to be eye level with everyone. It was like standing on top of a mountain.”
Founded in 2009, SoldierStrong began as a mission to donate coveted items — tube socks and baby wipes — to soldiers fighting in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Today the organization helps veterans thrive here at home. One of its programs, SoldierSuit, offers injured vets access to rehabilitation using cutting-edge robotic devices such as an exoskeleton suit developed by Ekso Bionics. These robotic suits help unlock life-changing opportunities that might otherwise elude veterans with a variety of combat and non-combat related injuries.
“You can’t put a price on walking,” said veteran Jason Gieser, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident. "You can't put a price on someone's ability to be 6 foot tall again, and stand up and kiss your wife — stand up and hug your daughter, or your son.”
Other SoliderStrong programs include SoliderScholar, which helps fill tuition gaps left by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and its newest addition, StrongMind, which aims to reduce the number of suicides in veterans by treating PTSD with the aid of revolutionary virtual reality software.
To help accelerate the rollout of SoldierStrong’s offerings to more vets, United Rentals turns to the race track. Through its Turns for Troops program, now in its fourth year, the company is donating $50 to SoldierStrong for every lap driver Graham Rahal completes during the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series.
“Our partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is succeeding in making a difference for military veterans who need medical assistance – a cause that has been at the heart of our culture at United Rentals for many years,” said Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer. United Rentals has been chosen as a G.I. Jobs Top 100 Military Friendly Employer for four years in a row.
To date, UR has donated more than $580k to SoldierStrong through its Turns for Troops program. To add your donation, go to turnsfortroops.ur.com.
Michael D’Estries is a freelance writer who specializes in science, innovation and the arts.