Combat veterans in S.C. prepare for a challenge unlike any other
Help support the 175-mile PTSD River Challenge from Columbia to Charleston in April
A group of combat veterans in South Carolina is preparing to take on one of the biggest challenges they have faced since coming back home from Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions of conflict. The 175-mile PTSD River Challenge will take 22 combat veterans from all branches of the military on an eight-day kayak/canoe and camping journey through the state’s waterways from Columbia to Charleston April 17-24.
“Why 22? The answer is easy, we are doing this to bring attention to the fact that an average of 22 American combat veterans commit suicide every day,” said Bobby Farmer, a Vietnam Veteran who heads Project Josiah Ministry which is leading the event. “We want to support this particular group of South Carolina veterans through this physically demanding and inspirational river journey, but we also want the 175-mile PTSD River Challenge to remind all Americans to be ever vigilant about helping combat veterans adjust to everyday life.”
Farmer is the founder of Project Josiah Restoration Ministry in Columbia, which brings combat veterans together to strengthen and improve their lives. He initiated the challenge to align with a national campaign designed to bring awareness to the high rate of suicide among America’s combat veterans. The idea evolved into a collaborative effort which includes businesses, state and federal agencies, retailers and veterans’ motorcycle clubs. The challenge is also being supported by an assembly of volunteers ranging from a wilderness certified nurse practitioner, to amateur and HAM radio clubs who will be tracking and communicating the paddlers’ locations throughout the trip and who will be on standby should an emergency arise.
“I cannot think of anyone we have reached out to who hasn’t wanted to support the 175-mile PTSD River Challenge in some fashion,” said Susan Benesh, AGNP-C, MS, FAWM, and co-organizer of the challenge. “We do still need more sponsors of items ranging anywhere from $5 for sunscreen, to $500 to sponsor one of the veterans for the trip.”
Benesh will be part of the support team accompanying the veterans on the river along with others who will man support vehicles and vessels, as well as manage equipment.
“These veterans are our VIPs. The equipment they need is being supplied. The route will be carefully choreographed by guides with the assistance of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard. We want the veterans to focus on the challenge of paddling 175 miles and on connecting with nature and each other,” Benesh said.
The group will depart from the Gervais St. Bridge in Columbia on the morning of April 17. They will paddle by day and camp by night, portaging between waterways as needed. The goal will be to conclude the challenge at The Citadel’s boathouse during high tide in the early afternoon of April 24 where a welcoming party will be waiting.
“It’s not a short and easy trip – this is a genuine challenge for our combat veterans who have experienced and survived challenges that most Americans can’t imagine. We couldn’t be doing this without broad help from our friends and neighbors across the state and beyond,” Farmer added.
To learn more about the 175-mile PTSD River Challenge or to sponsor a veteran or donate equipment, please visit the challenge website: http://www.ptsdchallenge.org/. Follow the challenge as its happening on Twitter, #PTSDChallenge.
Thank you to the many supporters and sponsors of the 175-mile PTSD River Challenge, some of whom include: