TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Three veterans are going the distance and walking across the country to raise awareness for veterans’ issues.
John Ring served with the Georgia Army National Guard and started the journey last fall.
“Our veterans suffer. Their families suffer also. I have suffered myself from addiction issues. I understand the challenges they face and the strength it takes to overcome addiction,” Ring said about the Buddy Watch Walk Website.
He departed Tybee Island Pier, Ga., on Oct. 1, 2019, at 8 a.m. and began walking across the country to end at the Santa Monica Pier in California for a total of 2,462 miles.
Along the way, two other veterans decided to join on his mission.
“We’re doing this to raise awareness to the issues like PTSD, TBI, addiction, MST, homelessness and basically everything that is causing veterans to commit suicide at a horrific rate in this country,” Ring said. "We want to talk to veterans talk to everybody and talk about the issues that are important, things that are ignored on a day-to-day basis.”
They’re issues that have affected either them or people they’ve known.
“A young Marine overdosed from addiction; just not able to cope with it. just makes it that much closer to you and pulls you in,” said Jason Hanner, retired U.S. Navy.
It’s awareness needed now more than ever during this pandemic. The men say being isolated and away from things that help veterans cope can be harmful. But their journey has become an inspiration, some saying it’s even kept them alive.
“They see us back out and seeing it’s kind of getting better, they’ve definitely been reaching out saying we’re keeping them alive that’s motivation right there to keep us going,” said retired U.S. Army Mst. Sgt. Jimmy Mathews.
They were forced to take a 53-day break due to COVID 19.
Now, they’re back on the road and ready to keep on moving.
“We’re keeping them motivated and letting them know there’s another day ahead,” Mathews said.
They're moving towards the finish line, but only getting started with their work.
“Help is available and it’s out there. And if you can’t find the help, call us,” Ring said.
The men will spend a rest day in Tucson on Wednesday before heading toward Phoenix.
Track their journey to Santa Monica here.