They made their way through Nashville on Thursday, stopping for a bite to eat at The Palm restaurant on Fifth Avenue, treat of country music star Charlie Daniels and his co-founded military nonprofit the Journey Home Project, which also presented them with a $50,000 check donation.
Journey Home Project 2015 Recap from Nate Shuppert on Vimeo.
Mt. Juliet’s own Daniels and the Journey Home Project board of David Corlew, Mercedez Longever, Joe Longever and Ed Hardy, hope to put a little spring in their steps and get them closer to a $1 million fundraising goal to combat post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic brain injuries among U.S. military members and veterans.
“The Journey Home Project was founded in 2014 for the sole purpose of helping those organizations that do the most good in helping our veterans and military members in need,” said Corlew. “The Atlanta Shepherd Center is one of those worthy organizations, and what the Shepherd’s Men are doing is just so unbelievable and inspiring. They’re making an incredible sacrifice for those who sacrificed it all.”
Funds raised through Charlie Daniels’ 40th anniversary Volunteer Jam on Aug. 12 at Bridgestone Arena contributed to the Journey Home Project’s donation. The event was just one of the many ways the organization has raised funds in order to support veterans in the local community and beyond with hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet health care, education and employment needs. In September, the Project donated $50,000 to aid in the completion of a new state-of-the-art Veterans and Military Families Center at Middle Tennessee State University, which encourages the success of student veterans as they transition out of uniform and into academics.
Travis Ellis, civilian founder of Shepherd’s Men said the initiative plans to raise one million dollars to benefit the SHARE Military Initiative this year.
“The men and women returning from today’s conflicts volunteered for our country, for all of us, and they return with battle scars that need our help to heal. Too many are pushed to the margins and take their own lives while the rest of us enjoy the freedom for which these veterans fought. The physical challenge of our run is nothing compared to the challenges faced by our veterans,” Ellis said.
Shepherd’s Men is a fundraising group comprised of 14 men who are making the run together, with the Army, Marine Corps and civilian population represented in their numbers. Each member of the group is completing the journey wearing a flak vest with 22 pounds of added weight and running at least 22 kilometers per day. The number 22 is symbolic and represents the average number of suicides that happen among U.S. veterans each day.
The group raises funds for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the nation’s top rehabilitation centers for spinal cord and brain injuries. Many soldiers who see combat suffer repeated neurotraumas that result in traumatic brain injuries. These physiological injuries are often undiagnosed and contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Without treating these injuries first, psychological counseling and other treatments for PTSD are rendered ineffective. The SHARE Military Initiative is a 12-week program that treats both the physiological and psychological effects of TBI and PTSD. It is primarily donor-funded and, to date, no graduate of the program has been lost to suicide.
The Shepherd’s Men began their 2016 journey in Boston on March 26 and will end Sunday at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Along the way, they make stops in Newport, R.I.; New York; Gettysburg, Pa.; Lynchburg, Va.; Knoxville; Nashville; Chattanooga; and Athens, Ga. In each city, they will meet with veterans’ groups, VFWs, police, firemen and other local organizations to honor those who have fought for freedom and bring attention to the combat veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who need treatment.