Atlanta/ Community & Society
AI Assisted Icon
Published on May 28, 2024
Memorial Day Marches in Georgia and Oregon Spotlight Veteran Struggles with PTSD and HomelessnessSource: Unsplash/ Wesley Tingey

As Americans across the nation honored fallen troops on Memorial Day, groups of active service members, veterans, and volunteers took to streets in distinct acts of remembrance and solidarity for those who have come back from battle and are now fighting personal wars against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and homelessness. In Georgia, a determined cadre of Shepherd's Men braved a tempest to march 12 miles to both honor military service and raise awareness for the unseen scars of combat, while in Portland, Oregon, veterans shouldered their packs in a Ruck March dedicated to supporting unhoused veterans.

In an enduring show to quite literally walk through the storm, participants of the Shepherd's Men March, an event as symbolic as it was physical, faced down lightning, thunder, and rain—elements that were unforgiving, yet, particularly poignant on a day set aside to remember those who grappled with far graver conditions on the battlefield. Justin Ezell, aligned with Shepherd's Men, captured the essence of the day telling FOX 5 Atlanta, "it was lightning and thunder, rain, cold, uncomfortableness, and turned out to be a beautiful day."

This event was much more than a march; it was a campaign spotlighting the struggles of returning servicemen and women. Travis Ellis, co-founder of the Shepherd's Men, gave voice to a collective determination to reach out to their struggling brethren, expressing, "What we want to do is make sure they understand you're not alone, if you're struggling, there's a community out there who would love nothing more than to lift you up," as detailed by FOX 5 Atlanta. Shepherd’s Men supports the SHARE military initiative at Shepherd Center, providing critical resources for those dealing with PTSD and other war-inflicted traumas.

On the West Coast, Tony Funsch's story echoed that of many veterans who stumble when transitioning to civilian life. After 17 years in the U.S. Air Force and deployment in Afghanistan, Funsch faced a steep and rapid decline post-service—a loss of home, relationships, and custody—a timeline that underscores the urgency and need for veteran support. "Getting out, I couldn’t sustain," he recounted in a telling moment shared with The Oregonian. Portland's Ruck March turned this narrative into a movement, mustering support for those veterans now without roofs over their heads, demonstrating a physical and communal commitment to those in need.

The Shepherd's Men March found its culmination at Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, where participants—gleaming with the sweat of their exertions and the satisfaction of their endeavor—gathered for a well-deserved Clarity Lager, a beer specially brewed to support their cause. "The keg of beer is a great gesture from Reformation Brewery. They made a lager for Shepherd's Men that supports the SHARE military initiative," Ezell emphasized in his conversation with FOX 5 Atlanta. As heartland tunes played by Kevin Kinney of Drivin N Cryin filled the air, it was a stark reminder that behind each march and each note of solidarity, there lies an ongoing battle for wellness, remembering not only the fallen but also the living, who bear the invisible wounds of war.