U.S. Veteran Trekking 13,000 Miles to Raise Awareness for PTSD

During and following World Wars I and II, it was known as “shell shock.” Or sometimes “combat neurosis.”

Today we know it as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This serious mental disorder can develop after someone is exposed to a traumatic event such as warfare. But it can also follow an assault, traffic accidents and other life-threatening events.

Victims of PTSD experience a variety of symptoms. They include disturbing feelings, thoughts or nightmares that are connected to the traumatic event.

They can last for a month or much longer. People with PTSD are more inclined to commit suicide or intentionally harm themselves than others.

A Bigger Problem Than You’d Think

It is estimated that 3.5 percent of American adults suffer from PTSD annually. About 9 percent develop it at one point or another during their lives.

The main treatments for this very serious condition are counseling, medication or a combination of the two.

Americans started using the term “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder” during the 1970s. Mainly due to so many Vietnam War veterans experiencing it upon their return to the U.S.

In 1980, PTSD was officially recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

Vet Is One-Third of the Way There

When we see a U.S. veteran in a wheelchair or missing a limb, our hearts go out to that individual.

But PTSD is a more difficult condition for us to observe. That may be one of the reasons there is not more awareness of it among U.S. citizens.

Thirty-seven-year-old vet Eli Smith would like to change that situation. And he is approximately one-third of the way through a grueling campaign to accomplish it, after starting in November 2016.

The Ohio native plans to walk and ride his bike to the four corners of the continental U.S. His purpose is to bring awareness about suicide among veterans with PTSD. Before he’s done, he will have walked or ridden some 13,000 miles.

22 Veteran Suicides Per Day

Smith is one of the fortunate ones. The former tank gunner specialist in South Korea has never personally experienced PTSD.

But he has lost several Army veteran friends to suicide. During the summer of 2016, he decided he couldn’t sit back and watch it anymore. He felt he had to do something about it.

According to a 2016 study by the Department of Veteran Affairs, approximately 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day.

Although veterans account for only 9 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 18 percent of the nation’s suicides.

How We Can Help Vets

At each of his stops along his “4Corners Hike,” Smith raises awareness for PTSD by conducting media interviews, speaking to groups and helping struggling veterans.

Smith says there are many ways the average person can help veterans, too.

As he told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “It doesn’t take much to show a veteran you care. Sometimes all you need to do is something small and it will make ripples that last a lifetime.

“Take them out to dinner. Bake them some cookies. Buy them a newspaper subscription so they have something to look forward to every morning.”

The Kindness of Strangers

Smith knows his message is getting through. He said he has received nine letters from veterans who told him his awareness campaign saved their lives.

Followers of his Facebook page have grown from 100 to more than 15,000.

He thanks the kindness of strangers for the success he’s enjoyed so far. People in the towns he rides through invite him in for dinner and a place to sleep overnight.

“It’s been beyond my imagination how kind the people of this country can be,” he said. “I have a whole new appreciation for strangers.”

From Walking to Riding

Smith began his trek in Florida and walked to Southern California, then up to Washington state.

Knee and back injuries will make walking impossible the rest of the way. So, he will ride a specially equipped bike with a small trailer.

Next up is the northeast corner of the country (Maine). Smith said he hopes to finish his trek in November 2019 in Ohio.

That’s where he will join family members for a joyous Thanksgiving celebration.

Help Eli Help Vets

We at 4Patriots are cheering on Eli Smith as he continues his quest to bring awareness to PTSD. And to stop the alarming number of suicides occurring with our veterans.

We’d like to encourage our readers to support Eli in whatever way you feel is appropriate.

Our veterans deserve our help!

**If you’d like to get more information about Eli Smith and his cause, visit his website here.

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