Vets Carry Names of Over 1,200 Veterans Lost to Suicide on Appalachian

Vets Carry Names of Over 1,200 Veterans Lost to Suicide on Appalachian Trek

August 01, 2016

Vets Carry Names of Over 1,200 Veterans Lost to Suicide on Appalachian Trek

Retired Army Sergeant George Eschelman had always loved hiking.  He and his friend Shannon, with whom he had served in Kuwait, would hike and heal from their wounds of war.  They had planned to hike the Appalachian trail together.  But, in 2015 Shannon committed suicide.

 

Devastated by the loss, George decided to carry her name with him as he hiked the trail.  When others heard of the trip, families sent him names of their loved ones.  He began hiking the Appalachian Trail carrying hundreds of name tags of veterans who have committed suicide.  

 

“I carry these everywhere I go, they’re kind of my security blanket now after they saved me on the Appalachian trail from taking my life,” he said. 

 

From Maine to Georgia, travelling 25-30 miles a day, strapped with a pound of name tags, retired Sergeant George Eschelman hikes the trail. Alongside him, fellow veterans carry even more names of those who will hike the trail only in spirit.  “We have over 1244 names… we have companies sponsoring 100 names at a time…  that pays for the framing and mailing of these names back to the families.”  George explains.  



The organization Eschelman helped to form, the Unified Warrior Foundation accepts sponsorships from businesses to help fund the trip.  All veterans are invited to join him on the trail and carry the names of fellow veterans who had taken their own lives. And families may private message on Facebook “Just send us the name you want taped up, and it will be carried by myself or another veteran on any outing we have,” he said.

 

 The journey honors the spirit of fallen fellow veterans but the organization seeks to create solutions to assist veterans suffering from PTSD, depression or debilitating psychological stress. The foundation organizes fishing, boating and various activities for vets to get together and “rekindle military brotherhood and sisterhood bonds”.

George is hiking to also bring awareness to the fact that veterans are not receiving the assistance they need, thus the high rate of suicide among combat veterans.  

 

"You've got to address the premise of the problem...no matter what a veteran takes his life for, they can always trace that back to PTSD, the separation from that family they had in service."    

Upon completion of the trail.  Eschelman will have the name tags each framed with the words, ‘Hiked the Appalachian Trail in Spirit’ and returned to their respective families.

Win 2 Harleys 

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4 Responses

Dave
Dave

August 04, 2016

The military needs to do more for these vets after they come back. They need help that drugs can’t supply.
The politician’s blame the tool, such as guns, but gun control will not change their heart and mind nor will it stop someone determined to kill them selves. You need to carry those names to Offices on capital hill. That will change something eventually. Maybe keep them in service an extra year to decompress them and work on the PTSD. My guess is about 5,000 to 8,000 suicides included in gun death stats are military vet suicides. The total number of suicides each year is pushing 50,000 including all. So many others addicted etc. also need help.

sherri gerald
sherri gerald

August 03, 2016

i have moved because of my husband of 25yrs death .You are carrying my sons name cody gerald Marine who has severe mood swings and withdrawel from family. I want to thank from a Marine mom and a southern girll born in Ga raised in La my new address is 769 overland stage rd Raville La 71269. i wish i could donate but times are really tough my dad a retired 24yrs AIR FORCEhad a stroke so taking care of disabled stepmom. Know this is long just wanted to say THANK YOU Stay safe.knowing my son is on a journey when he has a hard time leaving the house.THANK YOU.Stay safe

William Ellis
William Ellis

August 02, 2016

Can you tell the good Sgt’s progress? My unit lost a brother August 1st… the same day this was published, I would like to give Sgt Eschelman something with SPC Gerald Stauff’s name on it in order to carry with him…

Joe fields
Joe fields

August 02, 2016

I am a veteran whom would like to join on a hike I have ptsd and I would like to get out in the woods and do something like this. Here is my contact info thanks fieldsjoe@me.com cell is 6068130918

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