Walking with Purpose: Veterans Trek
Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum
You may not understand why Iraqi combat veterans Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson plan on walking from the Milwaukee County War Memorial to the West Los Angeles VA, furthermore, you may not understand their struggle as veterans reintegrating into civilian life. But that’s okay with them. The two men know that most Americans have little exposure to the emotional and logistical needs of veterans who have returned home. They know that many people think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in abstract numerical terms made more sterile by the now-lifted 18-year ban on photographing military coffins. They’re also aware that some will scoff at the importance of their over 2000-mile journey. But that’s exactly why they’re embarking on their Veterans Trek, to spread awareness of issues facing veterans to those who may not understand but are open to learning.
One goal of the trek is to raise $100,000 for Dry Hootch, a non-profit organization dedicated to “helping veterans and their families who survived the war, survive the peace” (and with whom Anderson is the Director of Operations), another is to draw out and engage veterans across the nation who may be lacking in social and emotional outlets, and an additional benefit of the Trek will be publicizing the solace many sufferers of PTSD find in connecting to nature.
Voss and Anderson came to their Focused Lab today wondering how best to leverage social media tools to engage the public with their journey in real time while keeping their safety a priority, and left with a plethora of suggestions, some of which are listed below.
- Document mini-Treks within the cities and towns the pair will be walking through, wherein local veterans lead the two men to their local VA or other speaking or publicity engagement.
- Create physical reference points to illustrate the startling statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide per day, via asking 22 community members to stand up as a group in solidarity with those who felt they had no other options. Use a corresponding hashtag for Twitter updates on this aspect of their tour.
- Post an interactive map for followers to track their progress and become a part of their story through pictures and relevant articles posted at each spot on the map.
- Leave a trail marking their path made up of their chosen hashtag insignia or other small totems. This would pave the way for other veterans to follow in their footsteps and/or produce landmarks to visit.
- Write a list of specific calls to action for community members to work from to become more involved.
- Generate an engaging visualization of the money that has been earned for Dry Hootch in real-time.
- Brand the Trek clearly such that it can be seamlessly represented across media channels. Shirts, rucksacks, hats and flags were all suggested as branding mediums.
What became clear through the discussion at Lab is that Voss and Anderson need a solid team member stationed at home who can act as a dispatcher for the media surrounding their journey. They will be walking through terrain better suited to ATV’s then broadband, and won’t be able to keep up with the response they hope to inspire. If you have any leads on a responsible individual who would be willing to volunteer their time for this worthy cause, please contact them at [email protected].
Voss and Anderson leave in 17 days for their cross-country journey. They have the support of their families, of their community of veterans, and they are hoping to have your support as well. Follow them on Twitter @VeteransTrek, canvas your local outfitting store to provide them with necessities, donate via PayPal and see them off on Friday August 30th from 8:30-10AM at the Milwaukee County War Memorial (750 Lincoln Memorial Dr. Milwaukee, WI Veterans Park Free that morning at the War Memorial lot).