Traveled +15,000 miles for suicide prevention awareness among Veterans
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – A Wilmington Veteran who lost his brother in arms started a fundraiser that took him across the country, and after nearly 90 days, he’s back home, his trip was a journey of discovery.
Perry Steed was welcomed home by his family of about 60 bikers on Sunday, and reunited with his wife Liz and kids after more than three months on the road.
“It’s been a long ride, and I’ve missed her face,” said Perry.
“I feel relieved and proud and happy and all the emotions,” said Liz.
According to Perry, 50 percent of Veterans are more likely to die from suicide, the same fate as his brother in arms Sergeant Kristopher Cool faced.
“I didn’t have the resources within me to make the trip to go get his ashes and bring them back,” he said.
A promise Perry made to Cool’s parents back in 2012.
Perry left in May, traveling 48-states, more than 15,000 miles stopping in Minnesota to collect Cool’s ashes, and connecting with soldiers along his journey.
While preparing for the trip, ‘Ride for Light’ , he got a request from Specialist David Howard’s family who live in San Luis Obispo.
“There’s one in California that just asked me if I could bring his brother’s ashes back as well,” he said.
Perry brought them back to North Carolina to spread at the Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg.
Perry’s Uncle Randy James escorted him back from Greensboro to help him finish the last stretch of his journey back to Wilmington.
“I am proud of what he did, to bring awareness to suicide prevention for the military,” said James. “We just lost someone in the family, so it hits close to home.”
Perry said mental health issues among military men and women need to be addressed.
“Renew those friendships that have been put on the back burner for so long,” he said. “The friendship never goes away.”
Anxiety and depression shared among Veterans is their reality, according to Perry.
Perry started his own non-profit, Operation Purpose, designed to help other veterans with mental illness and to create a safe space for Veterans to gather free of alchohol.
“When you can listen to someone talk and see yourself through there lense, you realize you know, it’s not that bad,” he said.
According to Perry councilors are lined up to donate their time to the cause.
Perry is resting right now but plans on taking Cool and Howard’s ashes to spread at Fort Bragg in the coming weeks.