Marine Corps veteran Terry Sharpe cares about walking. A lot. But what he cares about more is using his long, long walks to shed light on important veterans issues.
Sharpe, a veteran of the Vietnam War, on June 1, finished his fifth 300-mile journey from his home in Summerfield, North Carolina to Washington, DC. Each time he makes the trek, he travels approximately 10 to 14 miles a day, all in the service of drawing attention to urgent problems facing the veterans community.
Sharpe says he still suffers from post-traumatic stress from fighting in Vietnam, and his own experience inspired him to transform his pain into something positive.
“I've had it for 48 years, it don't go away, you just have to deal with it,” Sharpe told WSET.com. “Only way I can do it is by walking on the highway with two flags on my back.”
Sharpe’s focused on several issues in the past, including veteran incarceration and PTSD, but this year’s journey was dedicated to raising awareness of veteran suicide. He was accompanied by Ken Wilson, whose Army veteran son killed himself in 2013.
“It's rough on both of us. Our feet, we hurt at the end of the day. But it's worth it if we can just maybe save one,” Sharpe told WSLS10.
In September 2014, Sharpe and fellow former Marine Allen Brown walked from their homes in North Carolina to Washington, DC, twice, to protest the federal government’s inaction in liberating Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi from a Mexican prison.
Sharpe’s third trek in June 2015 called attention to the plights of four Americans — Marine Amir Hekmati, christian pastor Saeed Abedini, reporter Jason Rezaian, and former FBI agent Robert Levinson — held hostage in an Iranian prison.
And in June 2016, Sharpe donned his hiking boots once again to call for more government action to end the 22 veteran suicides that occur daily across America. Although the VA has reduced that estimate to 20 veterans a day, the number is still too high for Sharpe’s comfort.
“Coming home from war, a six-month deployment on a ship or simply transitioning from a life in uniform to a life without one can be difficult and the various state and federal systems set up to deal with this transition and life after military services are unable to meet the need,” Sharpe wrote on WalkingMarine.com, his personal site. “The challenges of adjustment and transition, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and physical disabilities, all need to be addressed especially as these things result in barriers to education, employment, health care and overall individual well being.”
Task & Purpose reached out to Sharpe. We will update when more information becomes available.