Servicemen, veterans complete 601-mile walk from Mississippi to Tybee Island Pier

Veterans Voices

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Georgia Army National Guard Infantryman John Ring has completed another trek across multiple states in support of veterans’ issues.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, addiction, homelessness and basically everything that’s leading veterans to commit suicide,” Ring told WSAV NOW.

“Those veteran suicide numbers have jumped, and a lot of veterans are out there suffering all over the country,” he said.

Last June, the Richmond Hill resident finished walking more than 2,400 miles from the Tybee Island Pier to the Santa Monica Pier. 

This time, his organization Buddy Watch Walk set off on another journey on Oct. 1, one year after his initial cross-country trek. 

On his first walk, one of the servicemen and veterans joining Ring was retired United States Army Master Sergeant Jimmy Mathews, who met Ring in Pearl, Mississippi.

As Mathews missed the first 601 miles of Ring’s initial journey, he aimed to complete them this time around.

Ring, Mathews and several other supporters, servicemen, servicewomen, veterans and children walked from Jackson, Mississippi; to Tybee Island, with many completing several miles of the journey. 

On Thursday, the Tybee Island Police Department escorted the group along Highway 80, with some members of the Tybee Island Fire Department joining in on the walk.

“It’s amazing being here and having so many people come out and walk with us today,” Ring said. Some supporters met the group at the Tybee Island Visitor Center to walk the remainder of the way to the pier.

“We had veterans and family members from all over the country: California, Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Delaware, North Carolina and various veteran organizations involved today,” he said.

“That’s what we need to do, we really need to work together to stop what’s going on with veterans, to treat veterans, to help veterans and to show them that we’re all working together, it’s really important,” he added.

Mathews says he has battled PTSD, and can relate to other veterans experiencing the disorder.

He calls it an honor to help those also struggling.

“I suffer myself, so I know what the veterans are going through,” Mathews told WSAV NOW. “I felt the need to get up off the couch and help others that are in need.”

During their two-month walk, the group’s fundraising efforts also helped raise nearly $10,000 to help support veterans’ issues. 

“Today, it was 18 miles in flip flops, and we all did various foolish things, like shaving and haircuts,” Ring said.

He and Mathews say they hope that any veterans going through a tough time know that they’re not alone in the fight.

“There are a lot of resources out there for them, they just have to reach out for help,” Mathews said. “That’s what we’re here for, to connect veterans to various resources that are out there that they may not even know about.”

In addition to occasional day walks, Ring says on March 25, 2022, Buddy Watch Walk plans to travel by foot from Normandy, France; to Berlin, Germany.

“That walk is to honor World War II veterans, but it’s also to talk about the issues abroad,” Ring said, adding, “Veterans all over the world are dealing with the same issues that our veterans are dealing with, so we’re gonna take this overseas and we’re gonna keep doing what we do.”

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