Veteran launches cross-country trip out of Vegas to raise awareness of PTSD

(Eli Smith 4CornersHike/Facebook)

A veteran is launching his journey to raise awareness of PTSD in Las Vegas. Army veteran Eli Smith plans to bike across the country as part of his 13,000-mile trek to spread his message.

Smith has already walked across the country twice. Now, he has a bike and trailer that he hopes will help him reach even more veterans who may need help.

Once Smith retired from the Army, he saw a problem veterans across the country were facing by themselves.

“When we come out of the service, we feel like we lost a sense of purpose and a routine,” he said.

Smith said the struggles of PTSD were clear.

“Suicide started happening through my social circle. And I just had enough,” he said.

So he sold everything he had and packed a bag. He started walking across the country to raise awareness of the problem, plaguing America’s heroes.

“If I told you in a year and a half there would be no NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and no college football -- every college football team would cease to exists because every player on all those teams, in all those leagues would commit suicide -- that's how many veterans we'll lose in the next year and a half,” Smith said.

According to federal data, an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day.

Starting in Las Vegas, Smith is biking to the four corners of the U.S. His trailer serves both as a billboard for his message and a place to sleep.

In each city, Smith stops to meet local veterans.

“A lot of them will be reclusive and anti-social, and not get to see how much people care for them,” Smith said.

Here in the Las Vegas Valley, he donated dozens of pizzas to Veteran’s Village. His favorite part is seeing their reaction.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “I don't like a lot of attention or recognition for what I do. I just feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

Smith believes his travels are making a difference. He said he’s received several letters from veterans, who said they rethought suicide after seeing Smith’s message.

He hopes others will be inspired to reach out to remind veterans that they are not forgotten.

“Call a veteran, text a veteran,” he said. “Send them some food, invite them out to dinner. Try to show them, no matter what, someone is there for them.”

Smith also hopes to break the world record for distance traveled on an e-bike. Right now, that record is just over 5,000 miles. Once Smith is done with his journey at the end of 2019, he will have traveled nearly 7,000 miles.

You can follow his journey here:

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