Cyclist travels across America to raise awareness about brain injuries

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Mark Gutierrez is biking 5,000 miles across the country to raise awareness about brain injuries suffered by first responders and military personnel for Project Hero.

He started his trip on Tuesday from Washington, D.C. and plans on making it to San Diego by November.

Since then, Gutierrez has biked through Warrenton, Culpeper and Ruckersville before making it to Charlottesville Saturday afternoon.

This trip is part of his transition in the next phase of his life after spending 12 years in the Navy.

"Part of the trip it is just for my own journey," said Gutierrez. "I just closed out my military career, I was medically retired. And before I open up the next chapter in my life, I kind of want to close this one out. So biking across the country is a good way to put an end to that and go on to the next."

He had to medically retire due to a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

"It all happened pretty quickly but once it was kind of certain it was going that way, I started putting this bike together with the intent of doing this trip," said Gutierrez.

He partnered with Project Hero to help veterans and first responders that may be dealing with similar issues that he faced after he retired.

"Project Hero helped me close out the last couple of months of my medical retirement. They helped me get back on the bike. I've been cycling all of my adult life," said Gutierrez. "The medical retirement is kind of a lonely process and having that community is just a big help to have those conversations chat with other people who are going through the same thing as me."

He wants to share the same sense of community that he received with other people through his bike ride.

"I think whenever you're injured or you're hurt and you kind of feel sidelined, there's nothing stronger that can pull people together and help people heal like community," added Gutierrez.

For more information about Project Hero, visit the link in the Related Links box.

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