A Michigan veteran completed a cross-country walk in a mission to raise awareness for veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Fruitport native Marty Wills trekked 1,000 miles to Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. He began the two-month journey in Muskegon on Memorial Day. Wills carried with him an American flag and a 50-pound pack containing a Purple Heart medal honoring his friend’s brother.
He used the walk to collect over $22,000 in donations for 22 Kill, a veterans organization that supports and raises awareness for former service members struggling with PTSD. The foundation’s name reflects the commonly cited statistic of 22 veterans on average committing suicide every day after losing their battle with PTSD.
“A lot of work needs to be done to raise awareness,” said Wills. “Many civilians don’t understand that you just can’t leave a military lifestyle and fit right in to civilian life.” He retired from military life in 2013 after 23 years of service as a U.S. Navy corpsman and a U.S. Army combat medic.
The veteran used Google Maps to plan his route, traveling 15 to 20 miles each day. Wills visited local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Department of Veterans Affairs chapters to interact with veterans suffering from PTSD. Several veterans expressed their support by offering him meals and overnight accommodation throughout his journey.