Brantley Gilbert was presented with a gift that he’ll never forget while on a motorcycle ride across Texas and Louisiana with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Army veteran Justin Patterson served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a sniper, earning four Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts. In 2008, he suffered a severe brain injury after his vehicle hit a bomb planted on a road in Afghanistan. After he was sent home, he struggled to recover from his brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He later joined the Wounded Warrior Project to help raise awareness about just how serious and deadly PTSD is for veterans.
“The fact is that 22 veterans a day take their own lives,” Patterson explained to KHOU, “and that’s just heartbreaking.”
Patterson was on a motorcycle ride with the Wounded Warriors over Memorial Day weekend when Gilbert joined the group. Patterson had never heard of the country singer before, but was impressed by how invested he was in garnering attention for the cause.
“Every time we would stop, he would give a speech and raise the flag about the awareness of PTSD,” Patterson explained.
Gilbert’s actions touched Patterson so much that he knew he had to do something. He wanted to give Gilbert something that symbolized just how much his efforts meant to him and other veterans suffering from the disorder.
“The guy that’s got everything, I think the only thing I could give him was my blood, sweat and tears,” Patterson said. “So I presented him with my Purple Heart.”
Although giving away one of the most meaningful items he’s ever been given seemed like a big decision, it was a simple choice for Patterson. “I couldn’t write him a country song or give him a Grammy, but to say thank you, for me it was easy,” Patterson said. “It was an easy decision to pull the trigger on that.”
“This thing means the world to me,” Gilbert said of the heartfelt gift. “And I found a lifelong friend named Justin Patterson.”
Gilbert and Patterson have since become close friends who talk every single day. Their unexpected friendship surprised even Patterson himself, but he’s happy that the attention it has gained will help raise awareness for the issue close to his heart.
“Who would’ve thought, right?” Patterrson said. “But if we can change one veteran’s life, that’s it for me.”