Veterans raise money, awareness for those suffering from 'invisible wounds'
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A group of veterans are in New Orleans Saturday as part of their walk across America.
Military service men and women from both the United States and the United Kingdom are walking a thousand miles to spread awareness about the invisible wounds veterans suffer after combat and to raise money for non-profits to help them cope.
It's been more than a decade since Msgt. Adele Loar lost an eye and two close friends in combat.
Yet, even after the superficial wounds healed, Loar was still suffering.
"I was trying to figure out why I was afraid to leave my house. Why, if kids are playing in the backyard, I'm hiding in my basement," recalled Loar.
It wasn't until a non-profit stepped in did Loar get the help she so desperately needed.
"I was doing an injustice to the guys who died that day by not living my life to its fullest," she said.
Loar is like many veterans who struggle with the invisible wounds from combat, like PTSD and brain injuries.
It's why she and five other vets are walking one thousand miles across America, raising money for non-profits that can help and raising awareness for those who who have yet to heal.
"Unless they get the courage to stand up and say, 'look, I've got an issue and I need help with it' then it's never going to get sorted. They need to put their pride aside. They're not in the forces anymore," said Jonny Burns.
Burns served with the Royal Anglian for eight years.
He's one of three veterans from the United Kingdom participating in the walk.
"If we go and fight together at war, then why shouldn't we heal together afterward?" Burns said, quoting Prince Harry.
For Burns, seeing the support from those he's met along the way has been an eye-opening experience.
"We have nothing compared to what you guys have. We do have about 2,000 veterans charities but you don't see them, you don't hear from them. They're hard to find. They're hard to get a hold of," explained Burns.
He struggled with mental illness in the military and was eventually medically discharged, in part, because of it.
"Everyone sees mental health to be a weakness, especially when you're serving for a country and you're in the armed forces, you can't show weakness. You're not allowed to show weakness," he said. "You've got a choice, you either get the mental health support you need and leave the Army or you just carry on and man up and be a soldier."
Now, Burns has realized there's nothing wrong with getting help. It's why he's urging others to do exactly that.
"If we can walk 1,000 miles and we get one person from the U.S. and one person from U.K. to turn around and say look I need help, then we know we've done our job," said Burns.
Veterans like Burns and Loar have come a long way, but Loar says the journey is not over yet. She says she's still learning to live her best life through the camaraderie of her brothers and sisters in arms.
"You know you're not doing everything right and it's not until you get to talk to others you realize how you may improve on your own lifestyle," Loar said.
U.K. charity Walking with the Wounded organized the twelve week walk from Los Angeles to New York. So far, the team has completed 376 miles with 624 to go.
For more information or to donate to the cause, click here.
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