ATLANTA — Although it’s a holiday, today is somber as many reflect on the friends and family they’ve lost.
Retired soldier Greg C. Washington is spending Memorial Day walking up the East Coast to bring awareness to the mental health struggles many of our veterans face.
He knows every journey of healing starts with a step.
“These first couple of steps mean everything. I hope you start your journey. Meet me on mine,” Washington said in a Facebook video post, his first in a months-long video diary documenting his walk called A Walk to Honor.
We caught up with Greg about 640,000 steps into his journey. He video chatted with us as he walked.
“I’m a little over 320 miles into this thing. You get to walk with me as I cross the Alabama state line!” he said as the “Welcome to Alabama” sign came into view.
After serving abroad and working in the corporate world, this retired combat veteran is on a new mission — to walk 1,800 miles through 11 states from Mississippi to New York, ending up at West Point Military Academy, his alma mater.
He walks on the side of the road and plans to stop in 25 cities to hold mental health rallies along the way.
“I was like, there are a lot of people out here suffering in silence just like I am,” Washington said.
The latest Veterans Affairs report shows nearly 18 veterans die by suicide every day. The report was published in 2020, but the data lags two years behind, so the latest numbers are from 2018. Many suspect the pandemic has made it worse.
Greg says he was almost one of those 18.
“In my darkest hour, I was dealing with grief, I was dealing with trauma and depression. I had sustained injuries myself while I was deployed. I lost my two best friends, Emily Perez and Scottie Pace, so I had survivor’s remorse,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my baby cousin, who was 13 or 14 at the time, calling me and just checking on me, I might not be here.”
So, he started walking for those who no longer can and for those who need help taking the first step.
“This whole message is to let people know that suicide is not the way. It never is,” he said. “And the call to action is to start your own personal journey of healing.”
Greg will be walking through Atlanta the first week of June. He’s planning to hold a rally at the Red, White and Blue Facility on June 5th.