Three men walking from N.C. to Washington D.C. to raise awareness of veteran suicide made their way through Lenoir County this week.
Brandon Powell and Brice Young, both veterans of the United States Marine Corps and Michael Birdsong, a U.S. Army veteran are walking from the front gate of Camp Lejeune to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. in an effort to raise awareness for veteran suicides and suicide prevention.
The trio is walking as part of The Wounded Walk, a nonprofit organization that challenges physically or mentally wounded veterans to walk for suicide prevention.
The Wounded Walk began in 2006 when Marine veteran Adam Shatrasky walked from Camp Pendleton in California to Washington D.C.
For their walk, Powell, Young and Birdsong are walking in memory of Powell’s brother, Spc. Nathan Powell, an Army veteran who committed suicide in 2009.
“He was a veteran in the Army, he suffered from PTSD; he served in Afghanistan,” Powell said. “All three of us are veterans, I served in Iraq and I have my own issues with PTSD as well.”
Suicide is a common occurrence among veterans. A study released last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that around 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
For Birdsong, suicide is an issue he’s also faced directly.
The Army veteran said he’s been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury that has given him issues over the years.
“It was giving me a lot of emotional stress over the years, I was going through a hard time, thinking about committing suicide myself,” he said. “I put my feelings out there over Facebook, and I’ve known (Powell) for years now, he told me to come take a walk with him.”
After Powell explained that he wanted to take a walk up the east coast and not just around the block, Birdsong said he decided to join.
“This is still about me but about helping other veterans who are going through what we’ve been through,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this, I might not be here. I’m very humbled to be able to do it.”
The group has been on the road for almost a week, and their trek through Lenoir County puts them about 70 miles into their 350-plus mile journey.
Carrying USMC, Army and American flags and trading possession of a wooden log with the letters USMC etched into it, the trio spent a total of two days in Lenoir County, visiting the African American Music Trail and Walk of Honor and eating at Ma’s Hot Dog House and King’s Restaurant and collecting donations for The Wounded Walk.
Money collected is being donated directly to veteran programs or spent at veteran-owned businesses, Powell said.
By mid-morning Tuesday, they were on N.C. 58 headed towards Snow Hill. Walking at a pace of about 15 miles a day, sometimes more, the group plans to follow N.C. 58 to Wilson, where they will break off onto U.S. 301 towards Rocky Mount and Richmond.
If all goes according to plan, the trio will arrive at…