On Friday August 1, two Marine veterans will walk across the Mojave Desert, through extreme elements, with only what they can carry on their backs, to raise awareness of PTSD and problems facing the nation's veterans. The Marines are starting in Palm Springs, California and will end in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Marines, Adam Shatarsky and Ross Delafield, are no strangers to long walks. Shatarsky previously walked from Camp Pendleton in California to 8th and I in Washington, D.C., about 3,000 miles in all. It took Shatarsky four months and four pairs of shoes, but he made it. Just a few months later, a fellow Marine and high school friend, decided to walk as well. His journey started in New York City and ended Washington, D.C., at the World War II Memorial. In all, about 300 miles, all while carrying a 30-lb log, representative of the burden veterans with PTSD deal with every day.
"It ended up representing all the guys we lost, not only to suicide, which is what the log was about, but to other things. I felt like all the guys we lost were walking with us," remembers Delafield.
The walks turned into an organization, called "The Wounded Walk." They've raised money by holding community fundraisers, and now they're ready for another challenge, through the Mojave Desert.
Shatarsky says it's all worth it, if it helps our veterans. "We need a program to turn that switch off," says Shatarsky. "Because when they get out, you go through all this training and suffering and team work and camaraderie and the switch is left on. The transitioning programs in the military need to do a better job."
Statistics show an estimated 22 veterans take their own life every day, which is one of the reasons Marine Corps veterans Shatarsky and Delafield decided to walk and to raise awareness for an epidemic that is hitting our nation's military veterans. "Too many of our brothers and sisters come back from combat broken. They may not be physically broken, but they are mentally broken. Our communities are there to help and to provide assistance in guiding our veterans through difficult times. I helped start The Wounded Walk to help bring awareness to devastating issues that should not be plaguing our veterans. These men and women deserve much better from our country," said Delafield.
As another topic of concern for Shatarsky and Delafield is the current national healthcare crisis for our veterans. "Our veterans put their lives on the line to make sure that our way of life remains free and democratic. For them to not receive anything but the best healthcare and medical attention is a disgrace to our country and to our military. The VA needs to do better in ensuring that our veterans receive great care in a timely manner," said Shatarsky.
Shatarsky spent four years in the United States Marine Corps with the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines Weapons Co. stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA. In 2011, Shatarsky served in Japan during the search and recovery mission following the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country. At the age of 18, Delafield entered the United States Marine Corps and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, served in Kosovo in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and in The Kosovo Force (KFOR), a NATO-led international peacekeeping force. He was honorably discharged in February 2003.
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Supporters can follow Adam and Ross's journey through the Mojave on Facebook, Twitter or even online at www.thewoundedwalk.org
The Wounded Walk is currently raising funds to assist veterans with medical bills, in obtaining prosthetics, and in making their dreams become a reality. For additional information about The Wounded Walk nonprofit organization, please visit www.thewoundedwalk.orgor on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewoundedwalk