BANGOR- Post-traumatic stress disorder affects veterans around the country.
That’s why one veteran is raising awareness in a unique way.
Eli Smith is trekking around the country by foot and by bike to raise awareness for veterans with PTSD.
“I lost a couple friends I served with to suicide and I didn’t understand it,” he said. “When I looked more into it, I personally felt guilty for not knowing about it as a veteran myself.”
Smith said when he heard about 20 veterans die as a result of suicide each day, he knew he had to do something.
“I am on a journey around the continental U.S. raising awareness for veterans with PTSD and veteran suicide,” he explained.
Smith will travel more than 16,000 miles, hitting all four corners of the U.S.
He’s in Maine on his way to Lubec, the eastern most point in the country.
“Loneliness on this journey is definitely something I struggle with,” Smith told us.
Regardless of the hardships he’s faced, he said it’s been worth it.
“In Augusta, before here, I met with the mayor and city council and they adopted my proclamation to have a veterans suicide awareness month,” Smith said. “It gets a lot of people involved in their local communities.”
Brian Clark, a local retired veteran, said the amount of time Smith has committed to this journey emphasizes what a problem PTSD is within their community.
“I think people don’t realize the depth of PTSD. I think a lot of it goes unreported and in the shadows and I think that’s a big deal,” Clark said.
Smith suggested people can help by checking in with local veterans, volunteering at veterans organizations and donating to organizations that support veterans.
Most importantly, Smith hopes his journey can connect veterans with the help they need.
“Suicide isn’t the answer. It’s not. There are so many people that love them and I’ve heard from so many different families and Gold Star Mothers that say ‘we wish we would’ve known.’ We wish there was something we could do,” Smith said.
If you’re in need of resources or want to reach out, you can go to Smith’s website or find ‘4CornersHike’ on social media.