Home After 40 Months in Combat Zone, Sergeant Davis Walks With New Purpose, Message to America: “18 Vets a Day”

Sergeant Matthew Davis strapped a sign to his pack reading, “18 veterans a day commit suicide” and took off on an 84-mile trek to Baton Rouge, La., from his hometown of Houma. Davis is making the march after being inspired by Marine Corps veteran Ron Zaleski who marched more than 3,000 miles to raise public awareness to the suicide epidemic in the military.

Veterans Speak Out About PTSD, Suicide

by Elizabeth Vowell
WAFB TV, June 29, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – E5 Sgt. Matthew Davis has been in the military for 10 years and spent a total of 40 months in the theater of the Iraq War. He’s one of thousands of soldiers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I’m still dealing with it,” said Davis. “It’s something that I’m going to be dealing with the rest of my life. It’s not just an on and off switch. So, I’m learning to cope with it.”

The transition from military to civilian life has been difficult for him and coping with PTSD is a constant struggle.

“I don’t like to go out in public, really. I no longer hang out with friends. I have lots of nightmares. My wife told me that I rolled over, told her crazy things,” Davis added.

To help manage his PTSD, Davis receives counseling each week at the New Orleans Veterans Affairs. A few weeks ago, he took another step to recovery.

Inspired by Ron Zaleski, an ex-Marine who walked cross-country barefoot to raise awareness about veteran suicide, Davis started walking from his home in Houma all the way to the heart of Baton Rouge. All the while, he carried a sign with a chilling fact: 18 veterans a day commit suicide.

“It’s too much for someone to deal with,” said Mike McNaughton, VA director of veteran outreach. “We’ve got to find other ways to take care of them.”

McNaughton is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he lost a leg and some fingers after stepping on a land mine. He has his own experiences with PTSD and uses that knowledge to help fellow military members.

“These are our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, everybody and we have to take care of them,” McNaughton said.

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