Ron Zaleski, a Vietnam veteran, is walking across the country barefoot to help raise awareness of PTSD and veterans.


“18 veterans a day commit suicide.”

It’s a sign that Ron Zaleski wears around his body. It’s also a statistic and fact that made Zaleski, a U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, decide to walk across the country, barefoot, in order to bring about change for the veterans who are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Zaleski is no stranger to walking. He’s already walked the entire Appalachian Trail barefoot and after doing so he formed the Long Walk Home with Valeria Moran.
Zaleski, a New York native, formed The Long Walk Home, a non-profit organization, in 2006 to bring attention to the need for mandatory PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) counseling for all military troops prior to discharge.
One thing Zaleski wants is to change the way in which veterans of the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being discharged.
Zaleski’s organization developed a three-point plan to address psychological issues facing veterans, who account for 40 percent of the homeless population and 40 percent of the prison population, Zaleski said.
The goals of the organization are for all military personnel to receive grief counseling training as part of boot camp; to have civilian re-entry group counseling prior to discharge; and to create 12-step support group programs for discharged veterans.
On occasion Zaleski writes on his blog along the way. On Sept. 4 he wrote, “Today I walked down Magnolia St. in Knoxville TN., which at one time was a decent area and now is in decline. Decline in that shops are closed, yards are unkempt, homeless roam the streets and hookers sit on the porches. They sign my petition, they were in the impact zone, their husbands and friends were the bomb. Regardless, all are affected by this plague – even those from nicer neighborhoods who think this ailment skips their door.”
He walks several miles per day, usually in the mornings, and Moran follows in an RV. Many nights they are hosted by people they meet in the towns they come through. Zaleski also stops and speaks at various locations, including churches, sharing his story.
After completing his walk across the country, Zaleski will travel back in the RV across the northern states, stopping in as many states as possible, in order to raise awareness of the situation and the petition.
Zaleski plans to collect signatures on the petition, which they hope to deliver with at least 1 million signatures to President Obama on Zaleski’s 61st birthday, Veteran’s Day 2011.
For more information about Zaleski, The Long Walk Home, or to sign the petition, visit http://www.thelongwalkhome.org.

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