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May 05, 2016

Vet Steps Out on a Mission

Note: Ken Meyer is a member of Holy Comforter, Spring, and has stepped out to bring attention to the plight of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress and a high risk of suicide. He’s marching 628 miles, to end in Galveston on May 28, much within our diocese, so take a look at his itinerary and go out to encourage him if you are able. His Never Quit March for PTS Awareness has a Facebook page with location information.


   Ken Meyer and Hope are raising awareness for veterans with post traumatic stress. Photo: Cody Bess


by Destiny Martin


Ken Meyer of Conroe, Texas is honoring veterans and helping raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress by marching 628 miles across Texas. On April 16, Meyer and his service dog Hope, began a six-week journey, hiking 19 to 22 miles per day, to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Red Wings in 2005. The final leg of Meyer’s Never Quit March, code named KILO 19: A Walk to Remember, will take place on May 28 as he and his supporters march from the Bolivar Ferry Landing into the gates of the 3rd annual Texas Frog Fest in Crystal Beach.


“It’s going to be an emotionally charged display of patriotism,” says Michael Langley, Promotions Director for Cumulus Radio in Beaumont and former Marine. Langley, along with countless others, has been helping to plan and promote the local event since March.


Along his journey Meyer will visit family members of Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, two U.S. Navy Seals killed in the line of duty during Operation Red Wings. His route will go as far north as Midlothian, Texas to include the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway, where Meyer will walk with Kyle’s loved ones in honor of the fallen ‘American Sniper.’ What began as a personal mission has grown into a highly anticipated event as communities statewide show their support for Meyer’s mission to speak out against Post Traumatic Stress, or PTS, an epidemic that claims the lives of 22 veterans everyday.


PTS (often diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event. Today, one in five service members returning from overseas deployments and military combat action will be diagnosed with PTS. Psychologically debilitating symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, isolation, hyper-emotional reactions, sleeplessness and depression can set in days or months after the trauma, at times making it difficult to detect. If left untreated the effects of PTS can have a very negative impact on wounded service members and their families.


As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Meyer—who prefers not to use the word ‘disorder’—understands first-hand the feelings of despair associated with PTS. After his military service he worked as an emergency responder for the U.S. Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) where he was exposed to extreme devastation after the World Trade Center attacks, hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and on-the-job fatality investigations. In 2007 Meyer was attacked by a grizzly bear in Montana. The culmination of disturbing and life-threating events sent him over the edge. “The human brain can only handle so much trauma,” he says. “My glass got too full and I retreated to a dark place.”


Thankfully, Meyer got help before it was too late. He sought counseling to learn how to cope with his symptoms and once again live a meaningful life. During his recovery process, Meyer began volunteering for the Lone Survivor Foundation and attended a fully funded healing retreat at their Crystal Beach facility earlier this year. Four days of therapeutic activities provided him with tools to deal with the things that cause him problems on a daily basis. “Prior to the retreat I felt as though I was running on empty, but I came away refueled with positive energy,” he says.


Ken Meyer is now an advocate for the Lone Survivor Foundation and hopes that this event will help to save even one life. All proceeds from the Never Quit March will be donated to the Foundation to support their mission to restore, empower and renew hope for our wounded service members. Executive Director of the Lone Survivor Foundation Terry Jung says, “We are incredibly proud of Ken and his efforts, not only in raising awareness for Post Traumatic Stress and fundraising for Lone Survivor, but in his personal accomplishments of working through the invisible wounds of war. 628 miles is no small feat and we will be cheering him on the entire way.”


Reprinted with permission from The Local Magazine, a magazine published by 650 Media Group, LLC for Bolivar Peninsula featuring businesses and people who are dedicated to the growth of the coastal community.