Films like “Easy Rider” and “The Wild One” wax nostalgic about riding on the open road. The song “Born to be Wild” is probably the anthem one associates with the American biker. Perhaps “Sons of Anarchy” is the modern interpretation of the public’s image of a true motorcycle outlaw.
But when four Emergency Medical Services employees come walking in donning their finest leather duds, having just stepped off of their iron steeds, the image of the rough, tattooed and tattered biker vanish. They may have tough nicknames like Croc and Bull, but their mission is anything but chaos.
The EMS ROADDOCS reside comfortably in the middle, equally as far from a motorcycle gang as they are from the weekend warriors that trailer their bikes to Sturgis every year to look cool. For these guys, their toughness is their medical license that they carry around.
“It’s all about coming together,” says Guy Minshall, president of the Texas chapter of the ROADDOCS. “It’s not all about riding motorcycles.”
But one of his partners, Matt Griffin, the club’s “pathfinder,” disagrees playfully about the motorcycle part.
Meanwhile, club “peacekeeper” Shannon Milner and club secretary Michael Furrh discuss the merits of this service oriented riding club.
If those names sound familiar, it’s because all four work for or have been employed by the Gonzales County EMS. Their motorcycle riding alter-egos allow them an outlet to help the community through volunteerism as well as a vehicle to help their brothers and sisters in the profession.
The riding club was founded in 2011 in Janesville, Wis. as a way for people in the healthcare profession to ride together. They began by offering teaching programs in CPR, basic first aid and accident scene management for bystanders. The club went on to support motorcycle events and became active in honoring veterans.
Now, the club has chapters in 19 states and the new Texas affiliation sports 22 full-patch members. That’s where these men come in.
Minshall, a native of England, found his way to Texas via Florida over a year ago. He works primarily for Fayette County EMS but does part-time duty here in Gonzales. He was instrumental in the formation of the Texas chapter and sees this as being a very busy year for the riders.
The event that is occupying most of their time now is the Code Green Campaign. The campaign is an initiative that is meant to raise awareness on mental health issues, substance abuse and suicide amongst first responders. A little known fact is the high rate of emergency medical workers that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. If one takes a moment to think of it, the connection is crystal clear.
Minshall explained that suicide rates amongst people in his profession is roughly one suicide every three-and-a-half days. Through this Code Green Campaign, they look to provide education for responders on how to provide care for themselves and recognize issues in their peers.
First responders naturally have a tough-guy title placed on them for the duties that they have to perform. Naturally, we think of them as unflappable, but that sometimes isn’t the case.
“You see the heroes, but who helps the heroes,” said Minshall.
Milner noted that these professionals often have no outlet for their emotions.
“They can make jokes about it, but the issues don’t go away,” he said. “There’s no professional help.”
Minshall explains further that the group is an outlet for support and sometimes professionals need to call someone to help them through a grizzly memory. It’s cool for them to lend an ear and a shoulder of support for a bother or sister that needs a little one-on-one counseling to make it through a tough emotion.
For instance, the previous night saw a first responder from North Texas take his life. Furrh was able to make a call to the people that knew the victim and lend support from someone within the profession.
“It’s good to get a phone call from someone you’re familiar with,” he said.
“You become desensitized after a while,” Furrh continued. “Having a club is fun and cool, but at the end of the day, they can all talk to each other.”
Griffin says that every single one of them have been touched by this subject. Once, he had a partner that attempted suicide while on shift.
They also stress that their group is a riding club, which is different from a motorcycle club. With them it’s family first, not club first.
On their bikes, the group looks like any other riding club. They have their Harleys and Hondas and are dressed in leather vests, chaps and boots. But to them, safety is the key. You won’t see them cutting up in bars or speeding down the road. Since they have the star of life logo on the back of their vests, they represent the EMS as a whole. As their bylaws state, if they’re wearing the logo and the vest, it’s as if they’re in uniform.
The ROADDOCS are gearing up for a major fundraiser on March 28 at Cowboy Harley-Davidson of Austin. It is billed as an escorted charity ride and party benefiting the Code Green Campaign.
A police escorted ride will depart and return from the location. The ride is $20 and will last approximately one hour through the hill country with breakfast and lunch included. Registration is from 9:30-10:30 a.m. with kickstands up at 11 a.m.
Other events include live music, food, a silent auction, and a bounce house for the kids. For the adults, a bikini bike wash will be held out back.
For more information on the Code Green Campaign, visit www.codegreencampaign.org.
“We’re definitely setting the bar for the organization,” said Minshall.