“We stand united in the war against veteran suicide,” the mission statement on the Mission22 card that Kris hands me as he pulls up to Two Inlets Resort, kayak strapped to the top of the rental car, nervously getting ready for the Mississippi River. Today is PTSD Awareness Day, everyday there are 20 veterans who commit suicide on average, according to a Department of Veteran Affairs Study. Our guest in Cabin 5 wants to bring awareness to this epidemic and show his support to his fellow veterans.
Kris Saunders is on his own mission, but supported by an entire community. He quit his job and travels to bring awareness, trekking across country from the south and kayaking down the ENTIRE Mississippi, relying solely on the help of strangers. His entire trip is a metaphor for the struggle against mental illness, its connection to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries so many veterans fight. Some days are rough, winds will make it hard to paddle, there will be rough terrain making portages difficult, and some days will be calm, quiet, and beautiful. He hopes his journey will reach even a few folks that will be inspired to research veteran suicide and learn to help.
“I am completing this trip solo to represent the veterans who feel they are going through PTSD alone. I want to show them there is a whole community of family and friends out there willing and able to help at a moment’s notice.”
When Jennifer at Two Inlets Resort received a call from Kris, he wasn’t expecting a free bed, he was asking for shelter. Kris was offered rest in Cabin 5 and a ride to the headwaters at Itasca State Park (we’re only 10 minutes away!) before his 70 day kayaking adventure began. James took him out for one last meal, handed him a caulk gun to fill in a gap, and happily packed the kayak on the Tahoe.
Kris’ sendoff at Itasca State Park had little perks of interest from curious strangers and then people started gathering around him at the landing. James wondered if he was going to run out of Kayak4Vets cards before he even started, applause broke out as he began paddling. Our four year old was able to watch, and although he doesn’t understand suicide or mental illness yet, I want him to be educated one day and remember this experience he shared supporting our veterans, being an advocate against mental illness.
Since his send off, his Instagram post reports he has already capsized, been demolished by bugs, and even had a bear visitor, sent gear home, and is still going! We are so glad we were able to host him, share a meal, send him off with a prayer, and thank him for his service and commitment to his community, our community.
By Kayla & James Daigle
Today, June 27, is National PTSD Awareness day. So many of our veterans come back home with wounds much deeper than the eye can see and they have limited to no knowledge of the resources available to them. One of those resources, maybe one of the most comforting, is the veterans such as myself, who stand beside you and fight the battles alongside you. We are still in the fight each and everyday. If you’re in need or want of more information about PTSD, checkout National Intitutes of Health (nimh.gov), or the Veterans Affairs (va.gov). If you’re in need of help and want to talk to someone, you can call Vets4Warriors at 1-855-838-8255 and someone will answer right away, visit them at Vets4Warriors.com, reach out to mission22.com and speak to someone about their mission and programs. Or give me a shout, any time. Can’t say I’ll have all the right words of wisdom, but I can listen and I’m here. Together we can bring an end to veteran suicide and raise support and aid needed to fight PTSD. #kayaking4vets #mission22 #vets4warriors #ptsdawareness #somewoundsarentvisible #source2sea