Sponsored by the Warrior Bonfire Program, Jason Bailess of Vicksburg and Gabriel Vasquez of Austin, Texas set off on a trek from the Alabama state line all the way to Vicksburg in five days to bring awareness to PTSD.
Therese Apel/ The Clarion-Ledger
Two Marine Corps veterans, one from Vicksburg and one from Texas, are a little more than halfway through a 155-mile journey across the state on U.S. 80.
Jason Bailess and Gabriel Vasquez hope, by the time they hit Vicksburg Friday night, they will have turned a few more minds to understanding the struggle of war fighters who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, does awareness projects all over the country and met Bailess three years ago when he kayaked the entire Mississippi River.
On the first day of their journey, the men walked 34 miles. Day two was a 31-mile hike. On the third day, they walked 36 miles. Thursday and Friday still lie ahead.
It's a lot of wear and tear on feet and joints walking on the asphalt for hours at a time, and even though the weather has been comfortable, it gets hot on the road. But they say it's worth it to make sure not only that people know more about the struggles of PTSD, but also that other veterans know there are options for them if they're feeling alone or overwhelmed.
"This is pretty hard for us, the road walks. It's not like walking on a trail," Vasquez said.
Bailess, a Marine for six years, has also been in law enforcement for over 20 years. He works with the Warren County Sheriff's Department.
"Throughout my career I've had a chance to be around guys who were affected, whether by combat injuries or by PTSD. I saw this as a chance to raise awareness for Warrior Bonfire, but also to raise awareness of veterans struggling with PTSD," Bailess said.
Vasquez, a Marine for eight years, has hiked the Pacific West Trail from New Mexico to Canada and three months ago rode a bicycle from Washington to Maine.
By the time Vasquez is done, he will have covered over 27,000 miles biking, hiking and kayaking. It has become something of a life mission, he said.
"I know what PTSD is like personally, and knowing that there are other veterans out there going through what I went through hurts me," he said. "So for the past few years I've dedicated my life to raising funds for wounded veterans through the Semper Fi Fund."
On Friday at Vicksburg National Military Park, there will be a ceremony for the men as they finish their trek. There will be a flyover and a chance to socialize and to meet Bailess and Vasquez.
Contact Therese Apel at 601-961-7236 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Veterans with PTSD by service era:
11-20 of every 100 veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Operations Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year.
12 of every 100 Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans have PTSD in a given year.
15 of every 100 Vietnam veterans were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. It is estimated about 30 of every 100 of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.