Never Quit March to arrive in Midlothian Thursday

MIDLOTHIAN — A veteran, his dog and his son are making their way across Texas one step at a time.

Ken Meyer, a U.S. Air Force veteran, began his 628-miles Never Quit March for Post Traumatic Stress on April 16 in his hometown of Conroe, Texas. The current 200-mile leg of his walk will bring him from Bastrop to Midlothian, where he is planning a community walk along the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway starting at 9 a.m. Thursday from the Cowboy Church of Ellis County to RL Harris BBQ, located at 1290 Eastgate Dr. His march will end at Chrystal Beach at the Texas Frog Fest 2016. Both his walk and the festival benefit the Lone Survivor Foundation.

The founder of the foundation, Marcus Luttrell, wrote a book about his personal story that became the movie “Lone Survivor.” The foundation offers veterans and their families retreats and a chance to find healing and learn to handle the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the foundation’s website.

Meyer, who left the military in 1994 and received help from the Lone Survivor Foundation to handle his own PTS, said the walk helps his own PTS by giving him purpose and allows him to assist as many veterans with the same struggles as he can.

“I have a pair of boots and I have every veteran suffering from PTS sign them,” he said. “I wear them at the end of the day when my feet are tired, the heat rash is terrible and my body wants to quit. I just look down, read one name and it keeps me going.”

Since he started walking two weeks ago, he knows of four veterans with PTS who committed suicide, he said. One was a friend he had been urging to find help, the others were friends of friends.

Each day, Meyer said he walks either 22 miles for the number of veterans who commit suicide each day because of PTS or 19 miles to honor the men killed in Operation Red Wings.

“I have a cart. I have my service dog. I have my son who is walking with me,” he said. “Blake, my son, is getting ready to go into the Army this fall.”

And occasionally, he has some company. People are starting to recognize him and will often stop to share their own stories of PTS or memories of a friend or relative they lost to suicide related to PTS, he said. Some just stop to talk, others walk the miles with him.

“It has been really awesome,” he said. “I have had veterans stop and tell me thank you for spreading the word about PTS. That is what this is all about.”

Along the way, he is holding and attending special events like the one in Midlothian to spread the word about the signs and symptoms of PTS.

“What I really want is for people to learn more about PTS. Just get it out there. A friend can identify a friend who has PTS,” he said, a first step in encouraging that person to seek help before they become suicidal.

Meyer said he refers to Post Traumatic Stress or PTS instead of the full clinical name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD because it helps people better understand the struggles and symptoms veterans face.

“When I talk about PTSD, it’s easier and people accept the PTS. When you add the disorder part, it puts up a wall, that mental illness stigma,” Meyer explained, adding he does tell people that the official name is PTSD before he ends the conversation.

About one in three veterans returning from combat have some type of combat trauma or traumatic brain injury that produce symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance, isolation, tension, hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal reactions including anger outbursts, according to the foundation’s website. If left untreated, PTS can spiral into other problems such as panic disorder, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal feelings and often leads to family, work and social issues.

Military members are not the only ones affected by PTS, Meyer added. Any person exposed to a traumatic event can develop symptoms of PTS and struggle. But many military members come home with PTS and struggle to readjust to family, work and civilian life, he said.

Anyone can follow the progress of Meyer’s walk on Facebook at Never Quit March for PTS Awareness or make a donation to his walk for the Lone Survivor Foundation at https://shar.es/1e3e8g.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.