Rolling Project Odyssey’s line of bikes reaches the top of the 7 Mile Bridge. FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/Contributed

Harleys and dolphins aren’t exactly a natural pairing, but through Wounded Warrior Project’s Rolling Project Odyssey, 14 veterans were able to experience the effects of the marine mammals through in-water interactive programs at Dolphin Research Center. Sponsored by Harley Davidson since 2015, Rolling Project Odyssey is a group motorcycle riding experience intended to aid warriors as they build camaraderie and recover from visible and invisible wounds of war. 

Meeting in Marathon from locations around Florida and southern Georgia, the group spent the week of Oct. 11-15 riding to various landmarks in the Florida Keys while completing workshops and team building activities. 

Thursday’s stop included a visit with the flippered family at DRC. In addition to swimming with dolphins during an in-water dolphin encounter, the group also got the chance to meet Jax, a rescue dolphin who survived and was rehabilitated after losing large pieces of his fins and flippers to bull shark bites at a young age. “It was just phenomenal,” said Bill Thomas, a former police officer and Iraq veteran. “It’s us, and something that’s natural. Not being worried about anything else around us, letting go of stress and anxiety, and being present in the moment.”