MONITEAU COUNTY — Walking across the country he served for 22 years is a clear-cut goal for a U.S. Army veteran who is trekking 6,000 miles to raise awareness about PTSD.
Veteran Stephen Meyers, originally from the state of California, began his trek Feb. 14 at the World War I Memorial in Kansas City. He was in Sedalia Tuesday and made his way to Jefferson City Wednesday. He will eventually walk to Jacksonville, Florida, and then turn around and walk back to Dallas and up to Kansas City. Meyers will take a break to see his son this summer and will resume the trip in August trekking from Kansas City to San Diego, California.
Meyers was deployed seven times to the “Imminent Danger Pay Areas,” of Bosnia, Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan. While deployed to Iraq in 2006-07 he became “troubled” due to war-time events. Further compounding his mental health was the death of several family members and a broken back in 2009. It wasn’t until 2015 that he sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The first thing I want people to know is PTSD is like a cut,” Meyer said while standing near U.S. Highway 50 east of Tipton. “It heals, it scars, it doesn’t have to hurt forever. You can overcome it.”
He added that many people believe if they have PTSD, it’s something they will have to live with for the rest of their life.
“No. 2, I want people to get help,” he noted. “The way that starts is someone’s got to have the courage to go and get help. Then, they can talk to all the people they care about, about how they were able to overcome things.
“Then when other people are having those kinds of issues, they know who they can talk to,” he continued. “For me, a leader is someone who will guide you to someplace you want to go, and if they haven’t been there they can’t lead you there.”
While walking, Meyers plans to hit as many major cities as possible so he can talk to others about PTSD. Meyers said his mentor is William Shuttleworth, 72, who finished his walk across America for veterans’ rights in September.
“He left from Massachusetts and finished in San Diego,” Meyers added.
Shuttleworth introduced Meyers to Michael Bowman of Indianapolis, Indiana. Bowman has been instrumental in supporting Meyers on his route.
“He’s been helping me out with the organization of planning all this,” Meyer said. “I think I’m the seventh person he’s helping to cross the United States. It was important for me to get him on my team.”
Bowman suggested Meyers stay at fire stations as he traversed the county. Due to this connection, Meyers has met and been helped by both law enforcement and firefighters.
Meyers, who burns 8,000 calories a day, said he’s walking because he wants others to know it’s not only veterans and members of the military who can develop PTSD but anyone who’s gone through a traumatic event.
“A lot of people I’ve talked to have no idea that most people with PTSD never served in the military,” he noted. “So, being someone who got PTSD as a result of combat in Iraq, it gives (me) a little more of a platform to talk about it.
“I can talk about the combat side, but I can also talk about some of the other stuff,” he continued. “It gives a little more of a broad stroke, if you will, for people to understand how things work and why.”
He said the “No. 1 thing” he tells people they should do is “if they need help with mental health care, then they should get it.”