The country star bonded quickly over two days with soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Project
Credit: Wounded Warrior Project

Brantley Gilbert knows how therapeutic a motorcycle ride can be. And last weekend, he saw firsthand just what it can mean to a group of combat veterans.

The country star, 30, took part in a two-day ride with veterans on May 22 and 23 organized by Harley-Davidson and the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps those with post-traumatic stress disorder and readjustment challenges. They made four stops in 48 hours as they traveled from Houston to Baton Rouge, where Gilbert performed at the Bayou Country Superfest as part of Kenny Chesney‘s The Big Revival Tour.

They bonded quickly, says the “Stone Cold Sober” singer.

“We started out as a random group of guys early Friday morning, and by the middle of the afternoon, we were shooting around like old buddies,” he tells PEOPLE exclusively. “It was an honor to spend the weekend with these fellas – hearing their stories and getting a look into their lives.”

One of the veterans even gave Gilbert his Purple Heart, the military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military. In return, Gilbert “gave him the rosary I wear every day to show that he’s not alone in the journey.”

“It was unreal to watch him give me something that was so important to him,” Gilbert adds. “They’re really fighting the good fight, even at home, and I try to help every little bit I can It was a huge step for Justin and the rest of the fellas to come out on the ride with Wounded Warrior Project, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to know them.

Gilbert recently released the Just As I Am Platinum Edition – a special re-release of his 2014 album including five unreleased tracks, including a remix of his smash hit “Bottoms Up.”

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