U.S. Air Force Security Police veteran Ken Meyer and his service dog, Hope, started their 628-mile march Saturday morning in Conroe with his family, fellow veterans, and community at his side.
The first 19 miles to Dobbin started at the VFW Post 4709 around 10:15 a.m. after a brief ceremony.
During the ceremony, Meyer reflected on how his personal journey evolved from doubting society after watching the news and social media to become a mission to raise awareness.
He began his mission to revive his faith in society and now marches to honor the 19 “fallen heroes” of Operation Red Wing, whose story unfolded in the book, “Lone Survivor,” through the first-hand account shared by Navy Seal veteran Marcus Luttrell. The 628 miles represent the June 28, 2005 date the “heroes” died.
Sunday, Meyer will march 22 miles for the number of veterans a day who take their life because of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Eventually, the route will take him to Texas Frog Fest on May 28 in where he will be joined in the 19-mile finish to the family friendly, two-day Texas Country music festival benefiting the Lone Survivor Foundation.
Diagnosed with severe PTSD in 2007 from various experiences, Meyer said it means a lot to have received the amount of support that he has for the march. He expressed his gratitude for his family, the Lone Survivor Foundation, the VFW Post 4709, and the community.
“I’ll be carrying the (memory of the fallen) and the ‘Never Quit’ mentality with me,” said Meyer, a resident of Cut and Shoot and a VFW Post 4709 member. “The overwhelming support baffles me and I appreciate it.”
In his effort to raise awareness about PTSD, Meyer also reminds people to realize that those who serve in the military are not the only ones who suffer from the disorder as anyone who has experienced trauma, including emergency responders, can also experience the symptoms.
Meyer served from 1990 to 1994 in the military and as a safety professional for Federal OSHA. Before retiring due to his disability, he experienced numerous incidents that contributed to his PTSD, including responding to Hurricane Katrina, The World Trade Center, a gas explosion, and being attacked by a grizzly bear in 2007.
“I knew I was triggered,” Meyer explained in an earlier interview about responding to the gas explosion which made him realize his need for help with PTSD. “It was like a bomb went off.”
As someone who has fought the darkness in the days since his traumatic experiences, on Saturday he said he hopes to accomplish one main goal by raising awareness
“I’d like to save one life,” Meyer said before the ceremony. “Of course, I’ll never know, but that’s what I want out of this.”
PTSD can also impact the family. On Saturday, Meyer recognized his wife Judy and his three children, Megan, Alison, and Blake.
“Without these people here I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me push them away.”
Judy Meyer said the family is overwhelmed by the community’s support and love. She asks for everyone to keep Meyer in their thoughts as he takes on his journey. For families who have a loved one who may be experiencing PTSD, she offers encouragement.
“Hang with them,” she said. “Help them through it.”
Meyer said he could not take part in the 628-mile march without the support of the VFW Post 4709, which offers services to veterans, including those who may be struggling with PTSD. The post’s members will have a truck with Meyer and members who will provide supplies throughout the route.
“Post 4709 couldn’t be prouder of our member taking on this endeavor,” Post Commander John Tellier said. “The 628 miles is a big commitment.”
Tellier said there are “hundreds of thousands, if not millions” suffering from PTSD, including sexual assault victims. He noted the significance of Meyer’s effort to raise awareness.
“As far as veterans go, it’s the wounds that you can’t see and a lot of people don’t understand when they (veterans) come back and they are different,” Tellier said. “There’s a misconception that PTSD is only those who have violent symptoms and that’s not the case.”
Around the country, Tellier said there are other veterans like Meyer who are coping in similar ways that Meyer is, but it isn’t typical.
“The mass majority is bottling it up and it just builds,” he said. “Unfortunately, some never reach out to share their feelings and get help.”
Conroe resident Ron Haket, a 24-year U.S. veteran, praised Meyer at the start of the march.
“I think it is commendable that he is doing this,” Haket said. “It’s sad that we are losing 22 men per day to suicide. It’s unbelievable.” – YourHoustonNews
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