Riding in the walk

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Marvin Haas, a World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veteran rides during 2018’s Walk for Veterans, hosted by American Legion Post 46 in Morehead City. This year’s walk is Saturday, June 22 at Garner Park in Pine Knoll Shores. (Contributed photo)

American Legion Morehead City Post 46 will sponsor an awareness walk for veterans at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 22 at Garner Park in Pine Knoll Shores.

The purpose of this event is to raise public awareness of important issues facing veterans and their families.

In 2015, the American Legion National Commander instituted the awareness walk to highlight the need for continued support for the nation’s veterans.

Since then, thousands of veterans, their family members and concerned citizens have participated and gained awareness of issues facing veterans.

In addition, they have become more involved in helping veterans through local programs and by contacting their congressional representatives and asking for their support on bills that help veterans.

According to the American Legion Department of North Carolina January 2017 issue of “The Legion Bulletin,” an estimated 20 veterans a day commit suicide.

“Traumatic brain injuries have become a signature wound of the Global War on Terrorism,” the issue reads. “Twenty percent of the men and women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are believed to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We believe in a strong VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) health care system, one that is worth preserving. We owe it to those who served our country to never forget the sacrifice and devotion. We are walking for those who have marched for freedom. Many are no longer able to do so for themselves,” the issue continued.

Who will be there

This year, the Veterans Coalition of the Crystal Coast will attend the walk. The VCCC is a coalition of veteran organizations, community service providers and personnel dedicated to the prevention of veteran suicide.

VA health care representatives will be on site to answer questions about local resources.

A VA district service officer and a local county veteran service officer will be available to answer general questions concerning claims for benefits and to provide VA resource guides and information to pair a veteran with the correct resource provider.

The walk will also have counselors from the Jacksonville VA Vet Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Centers across the country provide a broad range of counseling, outreach and referral services to combat veterans and their families. Vet centers guide veterans and their families through adjustments in lifestyle that can occur after a veteran returns from combat.

Services for a veteran may include individual and group counseling in areas such as post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug assessment and suicide prevention referrals. All services are free of cost and are strictly confidential.

Veteran suicide prevention information and educational material will be available.

As well as services for veterans, Operation Gratitude volunteers will be on site. Operation Gratitude delivers packages for deployed troops, military families, veterans, wounded heroes and caregivers, first responders and recruit graduates nationwide.

We Honor Veterans, a program of the national Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the VA, will be on site to provide information about the work they do for veterans and veterans families to enroll in VA benefits, provide special ceremonies, replace lost medals and awards and receive extra support from other veterans who volunteer their time to by listening and/or sharing their own story.

Gold Star mother Maria Myers, who is raising funds for a local memorial monument to honor Gold Star families, will also be in attendance.

The purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star families, preserve the memory of the fallen and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.

A representative from CapTel N.C., Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, will be available to answer questions about program for free phones and services and give information on who qualifies.

Walk information

The opening ceremony of the awareness walk will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will include comments from the post commander, U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. John Sotirkys and Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones.  

Angela Baker will sing the National Anthem and Elizabeth Schaffer of the Newport Roadrunners 4H Club will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.  

The walk will begin immediately following the opening ceremony at approximately 10:45 a.m.

The length of the walk is approximately one mile and will start and end at Garner Park. Golf carts, bicycles and pets on leashes are welcome.

Proceeds will benefit the American Legion’s National Emergency Fund and other national, state and local American Legion programs.

Following the walk, registered participants are invited to stay for a free picnic lunch and drawing for door prizes and a grand prize drawing for a fishing kayak.

Nonregistered visitors may join in the picnic lunch for a small donation as long as the food remains.

Anyone, including nonregistered visitors, may purchase door prize tickets for $3 each and/or purchase raffle tickets for the grand prize fishing kayak for $5 each or five tickets for $20. Door prize and kayak raffle tickets will be on sale at the park beginning at 9 a.m. and continue until the drawing begins.

The registration fee for participants is $15. Each registered participant will receive a Walk for Veterans T-shirt, one door prize drawing ticket, a small American flag, an American flag decal and a W4V decal.

Information packets will be available that show current legislation before Congress that affects veterans and their families, identify local veterans’ issues and provide local, state and national programs Post 46 actively supports.    

Those who have not preregistered may sign up on the morning of the event between 9 and 10:30 a.m. at Garner Park. Walk packets will be available for all participants during this time and registration fees will be collected.

For more information about the American Legion Walk for Veterans or to preregister, visit the Facebook page, American Legion Morehead City Post 46, visit americanlegionmhc.org or email americanlegionpost46mhc@gmail.com.

Participants are encouraged to wear their Walk for Veterans T-shirt and other patriotic clothing, and decorations are encouraged.

If you are a veteran and cannot afford the registration fee, come out anyway, this event is just for you. American Legion Post 46 will pay the registration fee.

Veterans who do not have a means of transportation to the event may call the Carteret County Area Transportation System for a free ride to and from the event. Those needing a ride must call CCATS 252-240-1043 at least 24 hours in advance to schedule the ride.

The fee will be paid by the American Legion Post 46 and the Veterans Coalition of the Crystal Coast.

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