Lukas Oakley doesn’t know how he’s getting home after visiting Santa Monica, but he’ll be happy to at least have a seat for most of the journey.
Oakley, an Air Force veteran, took his electric unicycle for a 3,000 mile journey across the country to bring awareness to the Wounded Warrior Project and ended his trip at the Santa Monica beach this week.
While Oakley himself was fortunate to not have faced combat, not many veterans had that kind of luxury and he said he wanted to recognize their sacrifices.
“Yeah so this kind of all started out as just self discovery, kind of figuring out what I was capable of on my own and you know, it started out that way and along my journey I figured why not make it a part of something bigger than myself and I started to raise awareness and even some money for the Wounded Warrior Project.”
The organization began in 2003 as a small, grassroots effort providing simple care and comfort items to the hospital bedsides of the first wounded service members returning home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group has evolved and today they offer mental health, career counseling, and long-term rehabilitative care, along with advocacy efforts to improve the lives of millions of warriors and their families.
Oakley said it was physically challenging to stand on his device for the duration of the trip that started in South Carolina and he learned some lessons along the way, like riding into a headwind isn’t a great idea on a unicycle, but he values the people he met.
“So over this journey, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting 23 different families,” he said. “They actually invited me into their homes and made me a part of their family for a night or two and you know, just being able to share that experience with other people has made the trip.”
At his final destination in Santa Monica, friends and family gathered to celebrate and watch him dip his unicycle into the water.
“Seeing my dad here and some family friends came by to surprise me and just be able to share that moment and experience with the people I love really brought everything full circle,” he said. “That really makes you realize that’s what’s important in life.”
Oakley’s goal is to raise $5,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, in honor of their physical and mental services.
“A little goes a long way in seeing the joy in people’s faces,” he said.
He said his next adventure is just getting home.
“You know, I can’t fly with this thing because of the big batteries so I’m hoping to take a train or might even have to rent a car and take a road trip,” he said.
To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/cross-country-trip-on-an-electric-unicycle. For more information, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Arabella Joaquin, SMDP Intern