The sound of small children playing amid the noise of a TV. Her hands soaked in dishwater, gazing out the sliding glass door as snow falls. She remembers the sting of the cold growing up in this small town as a child. She is not a mother, she is a sister and an aunt fulfilling the role of caregiver as her brother struggles with his past in Iraq.
She decided to leave her life in Georgia in the rearview mirror and support her brother and two nephews through the recent divorce. In an ideal world, she would be a catalyst for her brother to keep moving forward, embracing each new day. But eventually she would realize that all she had been doing was enabling him, watching as the negativity associated with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder propelled a downward spiral. One night wrestling with the frustration of not being able to sleep, she prayed for guidance and with a feeling of warmth was answered with the vision of a project to help veterans. Unite the Journey – A Project to Help and Inspire was born.
One foot in front of the other, the sound of heels striking pavement, the crunch of wheels from a push cart reverberating along America’s Highway 50. This is Angela’s journey, a young woman, veteran and sister of a Marine. A woman who chose to get up and walk the loneliest highway in America in an effort to experience the lonely place only warriors understand.
She explained to me with such confidence that this is an undertaking meant to inspire and rally support from the American people. To arouse positivity that typically surrounds an issue that has for far too long come to have a negative context.
“I wish for our veterans to see the positive side of their military experience in its entirety, not just single snapshots of their disturbing experiences.” The words she speaks to me over the phone are filled with passion and vigor. “I wish for those struggling, to embrace the positive side, learn their value and not become a victim of a stigma then use it as a crutch.”
The depth in which she believes this is unwavering. Her voice is steady and as she speaks, I can’t help but feel inspired and captivated by her actions. Her belief and desire to have a such a positive impact encapsulates the spirit of compassion.
In America today, there is a lack of depth in understanding of the struggles and sacrifices made by America’s fighting men and women, resulting in a sense of abandonment among our veterans. Due to the aforementioned, this has led to a lack of confidence; creating a disconnect between body and spirit. That being said, we must help those individuals realize their service and experiences were earned and they should take great pride in knowing that.
“How dare the rest of us put a stigma on those Americans who gave up their choice to not be scarred.” Those veterans who have been wounded physically and mentally must discover their self-independence. “The fight starts from within, reconnecting body with spirit,” she tells me.
So often men and women allow themselves to be trapped under the blanket of negativity that it becomes both mentally and physically impossible to understand gratitude. Angela speaks of a quote by Eckhart Tolle that she said resonates with her every time she thinks of the words, “When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner self alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.”
There is no difference in the spirit or integrity during the history of the American warrior from the veterans of Vietnam, Lexington or Pearl Harbor. The difference now lies in the society around them. Helping to breed this conflict from within. That is why veterans have difficulty transitioning from war to peace. War changes people and it shapes a social perception that will be regarded by some and discounted by others. There is no romance in the act of war. It is the spirit of a person who is willing to be a warrior, that is where the poetry and romance lies.
Amid the early chill of the Nevada wild, Angela awakes, looking out her tent at the highway before her. Long straight and empty the enormity of this undertaking in front of her. The open highway a literal metaphor representing the veterans she is walking this country to inspire.
With a smile an air of confidence she starts to tear down this camp, pack up an move on. She says before she embarkes, “I left so many versions of myself behind and I will continue to struggle on this trip and be proud of who I am, and when I look back at the woman I see I am proud of me.”
It’s hard not to let the story of this American woman and her family affected by war and your journey to heal from its experience inspire and motivate you. Unlike so many she is able to through action fight the loneliness and fatigue to have her voice heard and her story told.
Written by Shaun Arntsen OEF Veteran
If you are a veteran or the family of one and wish to help Angela inspire those around you you are welcome to join her on her walk across Americas highway 50.
Angela is currently in Ely Nevada heading east towards Delta Utah May 2nd.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for her schedule and to show her your support for her endeavor
Follow her on Facebook at Unite the Journey