A retired Staff Sergeant is walking 3,000 miles across the country. Van Booth is on a journey to raise awareness of a serious problem.
An alarming report from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows more than 60,000 veterans took their lives between 2008-2017. Booth is active in two programs, giving veterans an outlet to heal from their experiences.
Booth has been strolling along highways, the desert, and even hiking through the Rocky Mountains treacherous terrain. He started his trek in February, making his way from California to South Carolina to spread awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide rates.
“I did twenty years in the army, retired. I did several tours in Iraq, lost a lot of buddies and now we are losing them to suicide,” says Van Booth. He says he knows first hand how difficult it is adjusting to life as a civilian.
“They’ve done so much in such a short space of time and then they come back and a lot of them feel like they don’t have a purpose anymore,” says Booth. He wants veterans to know there are programs available helping them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It took a while, but I finally found the help that I needed and I got to write a song about my best friend who was killed in Afghanistan,” says Booth.
Booth is part of Operation Song and Freedom Sings USA, where veterans tell their stories as part of their therapy. Then, songwriters turn their solemn stories into songs to give back to those heroes.
“These are award-winning, hit-making songwriters that have written many hit songs,” says Booth. “They got together and formed a group and they sit with veterans and they write songs to help them get things out.”
This is why Booth took his guitar on his adventure. At first, there were no strings on the guitar, in remembrance of fallen heroes. He’s been adding a guitar string every five hundred miles he travels.
“It’s symbolizing healing as it’s going, kind of like I am,” says Booth.
He hopes to make it to his destination by the end of the year.
You can follow retired Staff Sergeant Van Booth’s journey here.