The American Legion Post 642 in Sedalia served dinner to some special guests Friday evening who are advocating for veterans and their families.
David Roth, a police officer, and Kevin Winton, a teacher, both from Indiana, have taken hiatus from their jobs and families to make a trip across America along state Route 40 called Route for the Brave. The pair, along with their crew, began April 28 in Atlantic City and plan to arrive in San Francisco on Aug. 26.
“The purpose of our walk is to build a house of healing for the vets and their families. We’re about the family,” Roth, Chairman of Helping Hands for Freedom, told the Democrat after talking with American Legion Commander Paul Bennett about his service. “To build this house of healing we’re going to have a PTSD center, we’re going to have eight full suites, ADA certified, and we’re going to have land. It’s going to be a true retreat house.
“For instance, our co-founder was laying in Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) and he said ‘I signed up for this but what about my family?’ There’s also the issue of when someone loses someone in a war or combat, they’re off the (military) base fairly quickly in about 30 days. They don’t get their benefits until 90 days. We’re that fallback for them and we want to give them a place to go. We have a national outreach not only for PTSD and grief counseling but financial.”
Their other mission is to help bring awareness to the 22 soldiers who commit suicide each day. People can adopt a soldier for $22 on RoutefortheBrave.org. The group also posts a daily dedication on their Facebook page to honor a soldier killed in action.
“One of the real missions we’re on too is to save 22. We are trying to put a dent in the 22 soldiers who are committing suicide every day,” Roth said. “That PTSD center with dog therapy and the getaway and the counseling, we want to get these soldiers and their families back a lot quicker through the turmoil.
“… Every day we do a dedication on Facebook and it’s tough, they’re younger than our own kids. My son (Matthew) just got back from his fifth deployment. He had some adjustment, especially with his oldest daughter. Skype only does so much. That’s what woke me up, along with my neighbor, an Army Ranger from Vietnam who recently passed away.”
They will announce July 4 where the home will be located. Roth said he has been talking with city officials along the trip about the possibility of constructing the home in their towns.
As for their trip, the group hit the 1,000-mile mark this past week and Sedalia marked mile 1,031. Roth said Missouri has “much better” side roads than Illinois and Ohio.
“We were on the Katy Trail. We were on (state Route) 40, playing Frogger, dodging gravel and then we saw this Katy Trail,” Roth said. “We started walking it and it was unbelievable. It’s the greatest gravel road in America as far as we’re concerned. We walked it into Boonville.”
Roth said he and Winton weren’t prepared to expend more energy on their interactions with communities and families, especially numerous Gold Star mothers, who have shared their experiences with the group, than on walking 30 miles a day. He said he’s receiving “an education I’m honored to have.”
“This mission isn’t military-led even though we have a co-founder who is military,” Roth said. “… There’s something that’s lost when a soldier or family member is telling the story, so we’re true civilians trying to bring this house of healing to a reality.”
For more information, visit routeforthebrave.org or Facebook.com/RoutefortheBrave. Roth said the group has various organizations who have committed to giving a contribution to the cause for every Facebook “like.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.