Veterans on cross-country trip run though Neyland Stadium

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A group of 14 veterans, running from Boston to Atlanta, ran through Knoxville Wednesday afternoon and through the gates of Neyland Stadium.

The group, known as the Shepherd’s Men, is a fundraising group for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta and is running to raise money for treatment of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The SHARE Military Initiative is a 12-week program treating PTSD and TBI in U.S. Military veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“As a Marine that’s been deployed, we can understand Marines that go to the battlefield. We can comprehend that loss of life,” said Jason Greene. “But, when we come home, if the Marines aren’t getting the medical attention that they need, or any veteran isn’t getting the attention that they need, and it pushes them to take their own life, that’s just unacceptable. As a group, we decided to do something about it.”

The group runs 22 kilometers a day wearing a 22 pound vest to symbolize the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day. But for some, the weight of the vest is nothing compared to the weight they carry inside.

Jarrad Turner is one of the 14 runners. He carries a picture of a friend who succumbed to PTSD in December. Attached to the picture is the suicide note he left for his family that reads, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t take the nightmares from Iraq anymore. I love you all.”

“This is true pain,” said Turner.  “This is unfortunate. No wife, husband or child should have to wake up and see this note. What we’re trying to do is cause a wave to create more programs so we can reach out. There is nothing else like the Shepherd’s program in the US. There is nothing else like this program. So, we have to do. We have to endure. Because we don’t want to lose anymore. It’s not right.”More online: Shepherd’s Men Facebook | Instagram

Knoxville was the sixth city on the 2016 Shepherd’s Men run. The group started the day in Lynchburg, Virginia, before continuing to Knoxville. They’ll make their way to Nashville on Thursday morning.

This year’s run of 1500 miles is the longest distance since the group was created in 2013. The goal is to raise $1 million for the SHARE Military Initiative.

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