One step at a time, Joe Copeland is hoping to draw attention to post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on the military.
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In April, the Navy veteran, along with his service dog Molly, embarked on a cross-country trek from Virginia.
Copeland averages 10 miles per day on his feet, but his heart and mind are never far from former service members who fight, and sometimes lose, the battle with PTSD.
“They’re soldiers dropped into suburbia, and everything they’ve been trained on how to handle situations with violence and military training doesn’t apply anymore,” Copeland told the ABC affiliate in South Carolina, WLOS-TV.
The struggle is personal for Copeland, who was diagnosed with PTSD after serving in combat zones in Iraq and Kuwait.
“I have a lot of nightmares still to this day, and I’ve been out since 2006,” he said.
Copeland’s trek means months away from his wife and two sons, but the importance behind his mission keeps him going.
“If I can inspire one soldier, sailor, Marine to choose life because of what I’m doing, it’s worth it,” he said.
Copeland and Molly are expected to wrap up their journey in California by late fall.