Steve Meyers, a United States veteran, is making it his mission to walk 6,100 miles across 20 states to bring awareness to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Meyers joined the California Army National Guard in 1994 and then transferred to the United States Army in 1996. After serving 22 years, he retired in 2016. He was deployed seven times during his career. Though he encountered many things during his deployment, the events from 2006-07 in Iraq troubled him the most.
In 2007, a week after being home, Meyers started having intense flashbacks to the point where he could see, smell and taste the things he had witnessed. He attempted to get help once the U.S. Army changed the security clearance policy allowing soldiers with mental health issues to receive care without losing their jobs, but his trust was betrayed. It wasn't until Jan. 30, 2015, Meyers received the help he needed, that discovering he, in fact, had PTSD.
"I kept thinking about what happened over and over," Meyers said. "I had these burning questions. Why did this happen? Why did they die? Why did I live? It was a whole lot of why questions, and there was a whole lot of guilt around it. And so, I ran that tape over and over and over and over."
For the first couple of years, Meyers had a hard time talking about what happened to him.
"I couldn't say that I was there," Meyers said. "I would kind of zone out, and I would just be this zombie talking in a monotone voice — you could feel the lifelessness of it, but that was the only way I could talk about it."
He's now ready to share his story and help others through theirs, even if it's just a small part.
Meyers said he decided to walk across the country because his walking was taking up most of his days, and because it's good for his mental and physical health. Once he figured out how many miles he could comfortably walk in a day, 30, he started planning his adventure. He talked to others that have done it, created a detailed spreadsheet and mapped out his path. But he didn't want it to be just for him, he wanted to give back. That's when he decided on PTSD awareness.
For his mission, Meyers said he wants people to know three things: you can get better, get help if you need help and take your vitamins — specifically, vitamin D, because it helps regulate mood and boosts the immune system.
"I want people to know PTSD is not forever, it doesn't have to be," Meyers said. "You can make it forever, but just like an open wound, it will heal if you do the right things."
Meyers is still in the beginning of his journey. On Feb. 19, on day five, he was in California. Up to that point, he'd only encountered a couple problems, one being he'd forgotten his medication at home. Luckily for him, his girlfriend, Vicki, helped him to get it.
Meyers' other early challenge was passing through Warrensburg, where Highway 50 divides and narrows. For that entire stretch, he had to walk at a 45 degree angle putting all his weight on his little toe, causing an injury. Though it set him back, Meyers said he's still optimistic and believes he will be going strong by the time he hits St. Louis.
Despite the early bumps, Meyers said his journey has been an interesting one even in just its first week.
"I've encountered more hills in California than along the way to California," Meyers said. "Oh, and I saw sasquatch in Tipton!"
After he leaves Missouri, Meyers will be headed to Illinois and so forth until he reaches Florida and loops back around with his final destination being San Diego, California.
If you're looking to help, Meyers is collecting donations for his cause. Those interested can also follow along with Meyers' journey via his social media channels — there is a PTSD-Walk Facebook page, and Meyers is on Instagram @stephen.meyers.39.
For more information or to donate visit www.ptsd-walk.com.