"Marine Veterans Walk Cross-Country for PTSD Awareness" article
Marine Veterans Walk Cross-Country for PTSD Awareness
June 17, 2014
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Two D.C. area Marines quit their jobs and decided to walk thousands of miles to raise awareness of PTSD last year, but little did they know, their journey would turn into so much more.
Now, those Marines have formed an organization to help our veterans coming home from war.
It started, the way most things do - that first step, and the desire to do something good. "We needed an idea that was crazy enough to be heard," says Ross Delafield, a Marine with the Wounded Walk.
Ross and Adam Shatarsky, both with the Wounded Warriors, had had enough. They were tired of seeing their fellow Marines come back from war, only to be faced with another battle: PTSD.
"They valiantly and wholeheartedly believe in this country and they want to go away and fight and do whats right. Then they come home and they lose their life. That doesn't seem right to me," says Adam Shatarsky.
Adam's idea itself was simple - walk across the country to raise awareness. But then the crazy part - the distance, nearly 3,000 miles from Camp Pendleton in California to 8th and I in Washington, D.C.
"In typical Marine fashion, it's like here's an end goal, how do we do it? We will figure it out on the way and that's what we did," says Shatarsky.
Shatarsky and another Marine took the challenge head-on. Not long into their trip, they started seeing change. "I remember walking in the Arizona desert," he says. When a UPS driver pulled over on the highway, he got out and stopped Shatarsky.
"He says I just wanted to tell you I'm a Vietnam veteran. I suffer from PTSD, I've never told anyone in my life and I wanted to give you a hug," remembers Adam.
There are no shortage of stories just like that one. It helped fuel their journey, when other things started to fail. "I lost all my toe nails, had huge blisters on my feet," says Shatarsky.
It took them four months and eight pairs of shoes, but they made it to D.C. Among their many supporters, family and friends was Ross Delafield, who Shatarsky went to high school with.
"I double-parked my car on my lunch break, I ran over to him when he got back from his first walk. I said, I want in," remembers Delafield.
Delafield then started planning his first trip, 300 miles from New York City to Washington, D.C. "I felt like all the guys we lost were walking with us," he remembers.
But Delafield added another burden: A 35 lb log that he decided to carry it on his journey. "It ended up representing all the guys we lost, not only to suicide, which is what the log was about, but to other things," says Delafield.
The Wounded Warriors aren't done yet. The walk was just the beginning. It's now grown into an organization to provide programs for those coming home from war.
"We need a program to turn that switch off," says Shatarsky. "Because when they get out, you go through all this training and suffering and team work and camaraderie and the switch is left on. The transitioning programs in the military need to do a better job."
The recent controversy with Veterans Affairs has only fueled their desire to make a difference. "To say there is a time limit on a window you can see care, is preposterous to me, it makes no sense whatsoever. That's something that needs to change," says Delafield.
Shatarsky and Delafield know it's going to be a long road, but they also know that it starts with just one step.
The Wounded Walkers are already planning their next trip for late this summer – when they plan to walk from Palm Springs, California to Phoenix through the Mojave Desert.
For more information about the Wounded Walk or if you'd like to donate, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thewoundedwalk