I am going to bicycle from San Diego to Vermont this coming spring to raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other issues related to military veterans. The projected start date is March 31, 2012, my daughter’s second birthday.
Plans are still forming, so nothing is set in stone yet. Through the United Church of Christ in La Mesa, California, I am working with a committee to plan strategy and logistics. My projected route begins in San Diego and runs up Highway 101 to Los Angeles, then along the famous Route 66 to Chicago before heading out to Vermont.
Along the way I will be giving my presentation “What Comes After Welcome Home,” which covers my personal experiences of having service-related PTSD as well as a variety of issues related to welcoming returning veterans into your community. As service members return in large numbers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are seeing that a staggering number of them suffer with PTSD. There is too often a stigma projected onto to these men and women that says PTSD is a sign of weakness. Raising awareness about the reality of PTSD and helping to reduce the stigma attached to it are the main focus of my journey.
My committee and I will be starting to fill my calendar in early 2012. This winter, I plan to keep up my training and continue to share my story throughout California at colleges, universities, churches, and veterans’ organizations, all of which are places that present some obstacles for me with my own PTSD. The emotions and experiences of audience members, the questions they will ask, and even the crowds on a campus are all things that raise my anxiety just thinking about them. I am happy that this is just a plan at the moment. I know soon enough it will be a reality. I also know I can do this, and I am looking forward to the challenges I will have to face.
The next item on my agenda is to work on acquiring some sponsors for my trip, especially one that would donate the kind of touring bicycle I’ll need. I’m training on a borrowed bike right now, and it already isn’t the right one for the kind of training I’m doing. My ride starts in 6 months. There’s no time to lose.