Ernesto Rodriguez is literally putting one foot in front of the other for a good cause. The army veteran has vowed to walk 2,200 miles to help raise awareness on post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rodriguez chose to cover 2,200 miles because as many as 22 veterans reportedly commit suicide every day. He himself tried to commit suicide twice. “I was in a really bad way after my first tour in Afghanistan, and my second,” he recalled.
Rodriguez enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was only 19. He served for 15 years with the United States Army Airborne Infantry. While in service, he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan twice. These deployments eventually took a toll on Rodriguez, leading him to have suicidal thoughts.
Today, Rodriguez has managed to turn his life around. “I have a daughter, and she would have been without a father. And that’s what I think about when thoughts like that creep up,” the Army veteran explained. At the same time, he wants to help fellow veterans by making sure the rest of the country knows about their struggles. This is what inspired him to walk across the country and make his way to the West Coast.
Rodriquez has been walking since Veteran’s Day 2016.
Rodriguez started his walk last November 11, while the country celebrated Veteran’s Day. According to a report from the Dallas Observer, Rodriguez left home from Clarksville with Seth Mayer, a 40-year-old veteran. However, Mayer had to turn back for his family at Memphis.
Continuing his journey, Rodriguez reached Dallas a week before Christmas. His plan had always been to reach the West Coast by late March or April. As the end nears, Rodriguez appeals to everyone for support. “I am getting close to the end and want enough ammo to give us a HUGE voice for our vets when I get to Los Angeles,” he said.
According to a report from WFAA 8, Rodriquez does not like accepting cash donations as he keeps walking for veterans. However, he is in need of a new pair of shoes. He would also appreciate getting a hotel room or a hot meal.
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