NORTH PARK, Pa. (KDKA) — Some Pittsburgh-area wounded veterans are lacing up their boots this week to hit the trails.
They will walk 17 miles in honor of the 17 veterans who die by suicide each day. KDKA caught up with the warriors in North Park to bring you their story of perseverance.
With the crunching leaves as the cadence and a pack directly in front, this group of wounded veterans easily falls back into formation.
“I got one gear, but this gear will get me to the end,” said Robert Zehnder.
Zehnder joined the hike to remind himself of one thing.
“Don’t give up,” Zehnder said. “There’s always somebody out there to give you a tip, to help you move you along.”
The group will conquer 17 miles this week in honor of the 17 veterans who die by suicide each day.
“That number was 22 a day,” said Jack Frawley, a Wounder Warrior Project alumnus. “So through organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project, we’ve been able to save over 1,800 lives of veterans and we’re hoping to bring that number down to 0.”
Frawley, a Marine veteran, knows the invisible wounds of war. He finds peace with this hike.
“By being out and being active, we’re able to increase those happy endorphins and be able to just talk,” he said.
It’s called Project Odyssey, an adventure-driven way to get veterans talking about mental health. On Monday, the group hiked Rachel Carson Trail.
With each step comes a chance to form new bonds of brotherhood.
“These guys have been together less than 48 hours and they look like they’ve known each other for years,” said Tom Chimenti with Project Odyssey.
And on what could be the last 75-degree day of the year in Pittsburgh, these veterans will continue to work to choose sunshine.
“Our mission is to always honor and empower wounded warriors. And the hardest thing sometimes is to ask for help and we view that as strength,” he added.