A U.S. Army veteran is trekking across the U.S. to raise awareness of veteran and active military suicide. On Friday, he did not walk alone into Sedalia, but was surrounded by others who felt the same calling.
Jeremy Miller, 30, of Boise, Idaho, began his journey May 21 in Crescent City, California. He plans to walk to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia — 3,200 miles. On Friday afternoon, he made his way into Sedalia escorted by members of the NOIC Whiteman Air Force Base Honor Guard, Branna Sparks, founder of Jeeps Against Veteran Suicide, Jared Metcalf and his daughter and Pettis County Sheriff Deputy Trout.
Miller made a stop at the Walmart parking lot before attending a meet-and-greet at the Sedalia Police Department and Sedalia Fire Department.
He explained to the Democrat why he decided to make the journey and why it was important.
“I lost four guys after I got back from Iraq,” he said. “We didn’t lose anybody there, but after we got back within three years we lost four guys. Then I tried to take my own life about five months ago … a month before I started this journey. And that’s what’s really prompted me to do this.”
Miller, who served from 2007 to 2015, said he has a 4-year-old and knew he needed to change so he could be there for his son.
“That’s why I decided to do this.” He added.
Miller said his journey has been positive.
“Everybody has been very acceptive about what I’m doing,” he noted. “Even walking down the road, a lot of times there’s no shoulders and people move around (me) really well.
“I haven’t had any grief, it’s been amazing,” he continued. “And then coming into communities like this that welcome me, it’s been phenomenal.”
Before arriving in Sedalia, Miller spoke with the WAFB Honor Guard team: Master Sgt. Joshua White, Tech Sgt. Jeremy Rutherford, Airman 1st Class Luke Smith, Senior Airman Preston Lindsey, Airman 1st Class Anton Keyvan and Airman 1st Class Johnny Frambo.
White said they decided to walk with Miller from Sadie Lane into Sedalia because they understood Miller’s perspective on suicide prevention.
“We provide military funeral honors for the entire state of Missouri and part of Kansas,” White explained. “One thing that is part of our job, and we run into every so often, unfortunately, is an active duty suicide.
“There has been kind of a slight spike in those,” he continued. “This team right here has actually been a part of one of those services. It’s one of the most emotionally trying experiences for us to do. The best way I can put it is, we’re sharing the loss with the family. We are taking a little bit off of them and putting it on us to help them get through it. And, to give honor to that service member.”
White said the team has seen “firsthand the effects of suicide.”
“So, for our organization, in particular, this is something we are very passionate about preventing,” he added. “So, when we saw Jeremy coming through, we learned what he is all about. We had him talk to our team.”
Miller’s message to other veterans is to find “their happiness.”
“Nature and outdoors is my happiness,” he said. “So, walking across the United States is my therapy. Then be vulnerable, don’t let the stigma of being weak get ahold of you. Speak about what you’ve gone through, no matter what it is … talk about it get it off your chest.”
Miller will end his trek in late November.
Helping coordinate Miller’s journey through central Missouri is Branna Sparks, founder of Jeeps Against Veteran Suicide.
“I saw his post on Facebook,” she said. “And one of his buddies who had been following him from the beginning reached out to me. He wanted to see if I could help him get through this area.
“I think it’s going to be a continual support thing,” she added. “All the way.”
For more information about Jeremy Miller’s Walk Across America or to support him, visit his Facebook page Walk Across America 22 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.