Supporting veterans, one step at a time - Titusville Herald: News

Supporting veterans, one step at a time

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 5:00 am

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers embarked on a 20-mile walk to raise awareness for suicide among veterans. This Saturday, several of them will aim to do so again, and are inviting the public to join in and lend their support.

Starting at 9:30 a.m., the walkers will set out from the VFW Post in Union City and trek the roughly 22 miles it will take to reach the VFW Post in Titusville. Along the way, they will receive escort from a variety of local fire departments.

This is the first year the Veteran Walkers of Northwestern Pennsylvania, the group organizing the event, have undertaken a second walk. Their typical annual march takes place on June 22, and stretches from Cambridge Springs up to Erie.

The group was founded by Kerrick Caldwell, a former Titusville police officer. Caldwell joined the military in the mid-2000s, serving in the United States Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After returning from overseas in 2007, Caldwell resigned from the Titusville Police Department the following year. According to Jeremy Brandon, a member of the Veteran Walkers, Caldwell began to perform his annual walk around four to five years ago, and has been doing it ever since.

The choice of June 22 as the date of the usual walk is a symbolic one. Brandon said that roughly 22 veterans die everyday from suicide. The walk to Erie took around seven hours in its most recent iteration, and the walk from Union City to Titusville is expected to be along the same lines.

The walk is free and open to the public. Brandon said there is no registration, and that people just need to “basically show up and walk.” There is no obligation to complete the full walk, and members of the Centerville Volunteer Fire Department will follow the group for the entire path with a van to allow participants to take breaks along the way. Water stations will be available.

While the idea of performing a 22-mile walk may seem daunting, Brandon stressed the importance of supporting veterans, especially when dealing with the traumas of fighting overseas.

“It really bothers us as a country to see the devastation and the hurt from our veterans when they come home from a war,” he said.

Brandon said that those who sign up to serve in the armed services, regardless of the branch, make great sacrifices to protect the United States.

“They’re basically writing the blank check of their life to fight for our country to continue to have the freedom we have here in America,” he said.

As such, he sees the walk as a way to say “thank you” to all who have served and give back in whatever way.

“We’re not doing this to have attention for us,” he said. “We’re doing this to show support for what our veterans are going through every single day.”

In addition to the walk, there will be a motorcycle ride that will take the same journey from Union City to Titusville. The motorcyclists will leave at around 4 p.m.

After the walk and ride are finished, food will be provided at the Titusville VFW. A local rock ‘n’ roll band, Milestone, will begin performing at 5 p.m.

There will be a silent auction and 50/50 raffle, with the proceeds to benefit the 9 Line Project, a recently founded non-profit that helps veterans, and was founded by Kerrick Caldwell and former Titusville High School Teacher Jeff Ottney.

Those looking to take part in the walk should gather at the Union City VFW Post, located at 23 E. High St., at 9 a.m. The Union City Police Department and the Union City, Bloomfield Township, Mill Village, Wattsburg and Stancliff Hose Company VFDs will provide an escort out of Union City. Upon reaching Titusville, the Titusville Police Department, University of Pittsburgh at Titusville Police Department, Titusville Fire Department and the Hydetown, Cherrytree and Pleasantville VFDs will provide an escort to the Titusville VFW.

For more information, visit the Veteran Walkers of Northwestern Pennsylvania Facebook page.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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