WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- One Army veteran is paddling 3,500 miles to raise money for members of the military’s special operation community who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Josh Collins' more than 3,000 mile journey began on March 5 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He wants to raise $22 million. This is the amount he said it would take to treat 7,500 former and active duty special operation Soldiers battling PTSD and TBI. For the former special operator, the mission he dubbed Operation Phoenix is personal.
Collins was a member of the Army’s most elite fighting force. He served in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. Collins suffered four documented traumatic brain injuries.
“I was hospitalized for three months with TBI,” he said.
Task Force Dagger — a non-profit organization dedicated to helping members of the military’s special operations community and their families helped pay for his medical expenses. The group also introduced him to alternative treatment methods.
In turned out, it was not pills but paddle boarding that was Collin’s antidote to TBI. According to Colllins, it made the earth still and the horizon flat. This peace gave birth to Operation Phoenix.
He has battled bad weather, sleep deprivation and fatigue. But in his words, “it’s not epic unless it’s never been done before, right?”
He paddles day and night, typically covering 30 to 40 miles each day. His wife Tanya follows along in their RV. His paddle board has GPS trackers on board. When he’s not camping out along the coast, it is where the couple sleeps and plans.
“I have my husband back, finally,” Tanya said.
Collins expects to once again launch his paddle board at Columbia Island Marina in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday. He said he will finish his trip in New York City on July 23. When he gets there, it is overwhelmingly likely that he will not have reached his goal of raising $22 million. As a result, he is considering rowing around the world.
You can make a donation and bid on a paddle board at www.veteranvoyage360.com.