Father walks for PTSD, inspired by son's experiences
BOURBON — It was five years ago when John McClellan, of Fostoria, Ohio, promised his son Josh that he would do something to help him. Josh was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of three Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Things were arising that just weren't Josh," explained John. "I told him that if he got help, I would do something."
When Josh's symptoms put him in the psychiatric ward of the hospital for a week last summer, John decided that it was time to make good on his promise.
John began a nearly 300 mile walk Nov. 14 from Fostoria, Ohio to Oak Brook, Ill.—the headquarters of the Wounded Warriors Project. WWP helped Josh and many others recover from PTSD, and John is hoping that his walk will raise money for the organization as well as prompt other veterans to get help.
"I want to let soldiers and veterans know that there's hope out there," said John.
Josh accompanied his father in a minivan filled with supplies, changes of clothes, and an air mattress. The father and son traveling duo took a pit stop Friday at Bourbon Street Pizza, where owner Tim Harman treated John and Josh to lunch.
They paused only briefly before heading out into the windy day again, anxious to cover ground before nightfall.
Along the way, John said, many strangers have been so affected by their journey that they go out of their way to help. A supporter in Wisconsin who saw John and Josh on a Toledo news broadcast has undertaken their cause—she calls ahead and organizes meals, lodging, and press meetings for the two men.
"It's just amazing how good people are and how much they want to help us on our journey," said John. "After this is over, I hope to meet all of them."
John's plan is to complete his walk by Nov. 22. Although he is a habitual walker, John has never undertaken a journey of this magnitude before. He believes that the physically taxing walk—25 to 30 miles each day— is a small price to pay compared to the experiences of those who suffer from PTSD.
"I can make this walk for what these men and women are going through," said John. "(The walk) isn't even close to what they've been through. If I can help in any way, I want to do it."
John said that he had always heard about PTSD, but it became real to him when he saw his son suffering.
"(PTSD) is in our lives now—that's our son," said John. "I know how these people feel (now)."
Josh has been improving through treatment in the WWP program. He said that even being around soldiers with experiences similar to his is comforting.
To learn more about John and his journey, visit http://wwpproudsupporter.kintera.org. To learn more about the Wounded Warriors Project, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.