On a mission to save veterans, one man is traveling over 13,000 miles

SPREADING AWARENESS–Eli Smith is pictured with his bicycle during a brief stop in Red Bud last week. Smith is currently riding across the United States trying to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and support for veterans.

I’m just some guy trying to raise awareness and help,” Eli Smith said, smiling over his sandwich while on a brief pit stop at the Casey’s General Store in Red Bud last week.

Smith is currently taking part on a journey where his goal is to trek to all four corners of America, covering 13,000+ miles, all with the goal of raising awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and helping veterans.

A United States Army veteran himself, having served as a tank gunner in South Korea, Smith got out of the military in 2002. But then he decided to take on a new mission.

We lose on average, 20 veterans per day,” Smith stated. “That’s 20 too many. I needed to do something about it. After a while, and looking at what other people have done to raise awareness, I decided on a hike. Not just any hike. A record hike to all four corners of America that would take me 3 1/2 years to complete.”

With a plan in mind, Smith decided to dedicate himself fully to the project. Many were doubtful.

No one thought I’d do it. I was about 70 pounds heavier when I started and I sold everything.”

He really did sell everything, from his truck to clothes and even dishes. Smith says aside from the few items he carries on his bike, his only possessions fit inside a small box kept at his parents’ home.

Smith’s journey started in November 2016, when he left his small hometown in Ohio and flew to Pensacola, Florida. At this point, he had planned to walk the entire distance. He added that the reason he started in Florida is that he didn’t want to walk through the South in the summer.

For more on Eli Smith, please see this week’s print edition.