Never Quit March for post traumatic stress awareness

Never Quit March for post traumatic stress awareness

Ken Meyer of Conroe remembers their sacrifice, as he must. Some things are simply too sacred not to be remembered and honored. The U.S. Air Force Security Police veteran is honoring the 19 servicemen who lost their lives in Operation Red Wings in a way that is a bit unusual, but one that will certainly stand out in the minds of those he meets on his 628-mile journey. He, along with his faithful service dog, Hope, will be walking to bring honor and awareness to these service personnel and to call attention to the 22 veterans that take their own lives each day from post traumatic stress (PTS).

Upon returning home, veterans and their family members pay a huge price for their willingness to serve their country. Post traumatic stress can force them to relive the agonies of combat on the home front, but this time without the support and companionship of their brothers in arms. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Post traumatic stress is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” 

Meyer is determined to call attention to the ravages of war that continue throughout lifetimes. But Meyer chooses not to add the word “disorder” to the phrase “post traumatic stress,” as some do.

“Using ‘disorder’ automatically adds a stigma. It’s an injury, many times resulting in one or more incidents related to trauma,” wrote Meyer. “People see a mental illness or disorder and are automatically judgmental. Taking off the word ‘disorder’ helps to keep people open to learning about PTS. For some reason, mental health issues scare people and they tend to think that we are unbalanced and will possibly hurt someone.”

Meyer and Hope began their journey Saturday, April 16, leaving from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4709 in Conroe at 10 a.m. There will be stops in College Station, Bastrop, Temple/Killeen/Fort Hood, Waco, Midlothian, Ennis, Corsicana, Madisonville, Huntsville, Houston and Galveston before Meyer and Hope board the Bolivar Peninsula/Galveston Ferry for the final 19 kilometers to Crystal Beach for Texas Frog Fest.

Upon his arrival on the Bolivar Peninsula, Meyer will present a beloved family flag belonging to his grandfather to the officials of Texas Frog Fest to open the event scheduled for May 28-29. All the proceeds from Texas Frog Fest, which is becoming a staple of entertainment in Southeast Texas, go to the work of the Lone Survivor Foundation. A beautiful new retreat center to house veterans and their families in a retreat atmosphere has been completed and offers a time for renewal and refreshment for these men and women that have given so much.

Meyer is endeavoring to walk 628 miles in the hot Southeast Texas climate because he wants to give back. He has come through a long and adventurous journey and battled post traumatic stress along the way. At three points in his life — after returning from service, during first responder duties, and after an attack by a huge grizzly bear — Meyer was suicidal and wanted to end his own life. But he says, “Never quit. Keep on fighting. Life is worth living.” The walk is Meyer’s way of living those words and showing support for those who are battling PTS.

The Mayo Clinic differentiates between everyday stress and PTS. 

“Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTS — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTS. Getting effective treatment after PTS symptoms develop can be critical to educe symptoms and improve function,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Post traumatic stress symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but in other cases, the symptoms do not occur until years after the event. That is one reason these symptoms are so hard to identify and catch. They cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. Meyers said that most families go through life-changing situations while a veteran is struggling to find him or herself.

Meyer experienced changes in thinking and mood as he tried to cope with his experiences on his own. They included negative feelings about himself and other people, inability to experience positive emotions, feeling of emotional numbness, a lack of interest in things that once held his interest, hopelessness, and memory problems, along with difficulty maintaining close relationships. He said that his family has been wonderful to him, but that he knows he put them through hell while on the continued road to recovery.

Experts say that if you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they are severe, or if you feel you have trouble getting your life back under control, talk to a health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTS from taking over your life. 

“Talk to someone about what you are feeling,” advises Meyer, a veteran and a survivor. Call (800) 273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and press 1 to connect to the Veteran’s Crisis Line.

To follow his progress online and to find opportunities to join his walk, search for “Ken Meyer Team Never Quit” on Facebook.