KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Navy veteran is bringing awareness about mental health for military veterans by walking from Sanford, N.C. to Austin, T.X.
Jason Rhodes owns RenoVet, a nonprofit organization that helps disabled veterans.
“What we’ve been doing for the past three years, is we’ve been doing renovations repairs retrofits and remodels for disabled veterans,” he said.
Rhodes said his goal is to raise money to fund more projects and awareness about the challenges veterans face during his walk. He has been documenting his journey through social media and arrived in Knoxville on Saturday.
“The number one reason would be mental health awareness, for the military, law enforcement, and first responders communities. I believe there’s a little bit of a gap between those communities when it comes to mental health support,” Rhodes said.
He also said aside from mental health issues, other problems can arise in veterans after service that people may not know about.
“There’s been a couple guys that I’ve known that have alcohol, drug-related instances. When we hear the number 22 a day, we hear about the number that actively take their own life, but we don’t hear about the numbers that are leaving this earth due to other issues,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes has slept in churches, fire departments and in the woods throughout his journey, but said he has met people along the way that have helped him get food and a place to sleep. When he arrived in Knoxville, he met Stone Bennett, who heard about his journey while at work.
“She told me about his story and what he was about, and how he came to be, and I was just very interested with him being a veteran himself from the Navy and I’m also prior Navy,” Bennet said. “I was really invested in his story and I wanted to try to help him as much as I could.”
Bennett paid for a hotel room for the night for Rhodes to stay in. He has completed about 350 miles as of arriving in Knoxville, but said he has already seen an impact.
“To all the people that have helped me along the way, it is so appreciated,” Rhodes said.
RenoVet is accepting donations on its website that would go towards funding more projects for disabled veterans. Rhodes is also documenting his journey through his TikTok account.