Walkers enjoy time in county

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John Ring and Jimmy Mathews of Buddy Watch Walk - Pier to Pier left Sunday morning after a brief weekend of rest in Mineola. 

U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran Jim Bailey joined them on the next leg of their journey from Mineola VFW to Grand Saline. 

Mineola gave them a very warm welcome as they entered town. Many local citizens including Kenneth and Denise Hurst, Robert and Jae Horn, Judge Janae Holland, members of the Mineola VFW Post 7523, the Mineola American Legion, members of the Mineola Rotary Club and many more were supportive of them during their stay in Wood County. 

The pair thanked Mineola for their support at Kelly B’s Main Course Restaurant Saturday morning during a benefit breakfast. 

“Thank you for the support. It’s been very therapeutic for me,” stated Mathews.

John Ring, a soldier in the 48th Infantry Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard, began walking from Tybee Island Pier, Ga. on Oct. 1 with the goal of walking 2,462 miles to Santa Monica Pier, Cal. by May 8.

The end date coincides with the date that Germany surrendered to the Americans, British and Soviets, marking the end of World War Two in the European theater.

Jimmy Mathews, an Army combat veteran who recently retired after 25 years in the military, joined Ring in Pearl, Miss. Mathews struggles with PTSD after serving three combat tours and a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

The two are walking across the country to raise awareness of veterans’ issues such as post traumatic stress syndrome, homelessness, addiction, military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury that they feel are at the root of the veteran suicide epidemic. 

The suicide rate among veterans and military members is averaging 22 a day. Since 2008, more than 60,000 U.S. veterans have taken their own lives. A report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that more veterans have committed suicide between 2008 and 2017 than died during the Vietnam War. 

Ring says the Pier to Pier walk is not really about the steps or the walk; it’s about reaching people. 

“It’s means a lot to me to meet so many people along the way and to meet with veterans who suffer themselves. I haven’t met a veteran yet that said it was a great experience becoming a veteran,” declares Ring. He wants to encourage others to pay attention to veterans, to shake their hand, ask them how they’re doing and thank them for their service.

“We want to save as many lives as we can from the epidemic of suicide,” adds Mathews.

In addition to raising awareness through the walk, they are also raising money for Buddy Watch Inc., a nonprofit organization in Midway, Ga., to build a tiny house community for veterans. 

To date, they have collected $6,467 toward their $200,000 goal through GoFundMe. 

Ring and Mathews welcome all to join them on their journey to Santa Monica. Follow their progress on facebook.

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