Veteran walking across US to raise PTSD awareness

HARRISON, Tenn. (WTVC/ABC) --  One step at a time, Joe Copeland is hoping to draw attention to post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on the military.

In April, the Navy veteran, along with his service dog Molly, embarked on a cross-country trek that began in Virginia Beach. He plans to end finish his walk 2,700 miles away in California.

Copeland averages 10 miles per day on his feet, but his heart and mind are never far from former service members who fight, and sometimes lose, the battle with PTSD. 

ABC affiliate WTVC caught up with Copeland on Saturday while he was stocking up on groceries near Chattanooga. He wore a t-shirt that said "#walktoend22," referencing a 2012 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs that stated 22 veterans take their own lives every day.

The VA's most recent study from 2016 says that's decreased down to 20 suicides a day, but Copeland says that's still too high.

See Also: Suicide Prevention from the VA

Copeland said he takes medication for his own PTSD, and also gets by with the help of his service dog Molly. Copeland said he hopes he sends veterans the message that there is help available, and it does get better.

"I was always told while I was in the military to always have your brother's back," he said. "Always make sure he showed up to muster, no man left behind. That, for me, just carried over once I got out. I felt I still needed to do something to help out my brothers and sisters."

Copeland is about 60 days into his trip. On Saturday, he was camping out at Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee. The whole trip will take him a year to finish.

Suicide Prevention FactSheet - New VA Stats by 13News Now on Scribd

 

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