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Walk For Vets: PTSD Warrior’s Walk

Cross Country Walk: Key West, Florida to San Diego, California

Have you ever had a crazy idea and go for it? Well, on September 4, 2019, John Ring had an idea. It was a bit crazy, but that never stopped the Infantry before.

“I’m going to walk across the country for veterans.” – John Ring

Character Core & Choices

John had a self-confessed ‘trivial background.’ He never really knew his father, who was already fifty years old when John was born. His father was a Korean War veteran who had served in the Army and the Air Force and lived a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. John remembers his dad always on the move and hardly ever home. John became a bit rebellious and nomadic, quitting school and becoming a ‘knucklehead’ without much direction. He worked on a construction crew as the world changed in September 2001.

John didn’t run off and join the military after the attacks of September 11. In hindsight, he contemplates his choice not to and feels he was always where he was supposed to be. If he had joined the military, “I probably wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now, or I wouldn’t be in the mindset,” he explains, “Many veterans that went in between 2001-2003 were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and after coming home, they’re just trying to live their lives.”

In 2002, John became a Corrections Officer in the state prison system. He found himself relating to many of the inmates and had firsthand encounters with human trauma. “This experience also helped me relate to veterans. What I went through and witnessed at work wasn’t anything I would discuss at the dinner table with the family.” After eight years as a corrections officer in Pennsylvania, John and his family packed up and moved to Georgia, where he ultimately joined the Georgia National Guard in 2013.

Finding a Purpose and a Mission of Advocacy

John never actually deployed to a combat zone, having had two deployments scheduled but canceled. “It’s a running joke with some veterans I know,” says John, “They say, Hell, you never even deployed, and I tell them, somebody has to understand just enough to help your dumb ass.” Looking back on how everything played out, John is certain things happened just as they were meant to. His life experiences and his service in the military brought together the tools he would need to help positively impact lives.

The act of advocating for someone began in Chatham County when John met an Army veteran who had been raped in service and became addicted to opioids after an injury she had sustained. She was booted out of the Army, her husband filed for divorce, and her children were taken away. “I met her while she was in a Chatham County treatment center. I asked her why she wasn’t in the VA system, and she claimed they had blocked her from going there even though she was one hundred percent disabled. I did a bit of digging and found out that some of the counselors didn’t like her. That really upset me; you don’t mess with a person’s life just because you don’t like them. I got her squared away and entered into the STAR program at the VA. Two years later, she is a fitness coach, sees her kids, and lives a good life. ”

John began working with other veterans in the system and learned that they were suffering from PTSD and weren’t finding the help they needed. “They’re in this drug center trying to get help, but nobody understands PTSD. Nobody understands the things that veterans do. They don’t understand that every veteran at one point held their head high, proud of what they were doing, and for some reason, they fell and are not being picked back up. In the system, they are sustained long enough to slip up and fall right back in.”

At the same time, while serving in the National Guard, John met Jesse, who was a year younger than John and was dealing with marital issues. “As soon as I met him, I knew someday he would struggle. He was what we call a War Junkie. Deploy me. Deploy me. Deploy me. I told him, “One day that internal war you have, the person you let out on deployments, one day it’s going to come out when you don’t have anyone to fight except the ones who love you, and you will chase them all away. You will be alone, and then what will you do?”

From all angles, John found the need for veterans to have a voice and to be heard.

The Mission

John’s experiences as a corrections officer, member of the National Guard, political campaign manager, NAACP, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, and now American Legion Post Commander have all instilled a purpose of service. He even ran for City Council in Richmond, Virginia, in 2019, just trying to make a change in the community. He has worked alongside organizations to advocate for breast cancer awareness, cystic fibrosis awareness, domestic violence awareness, fair housing, and more. He found that all these issues also affected the veteran community. John says, “If you’re dealing with PTSD and it’s severe, somebody in that house is dealing with one of these things, usually domestic or mental abuse.”

The Walks

What can one man do to make a difference and raise awareness across the Nation? How bout’ walk it!

The purpose of the first walk was for John to find understanding and to raise awareness of veteran issues. He had seen veterans, heard their stories, and had started following a couple of other veterans who had walked across the country and said it was the best thing they ever did. So, John teamed up with another group and began his trek across the country from ‘Pier to Pier’ starting at Tybee Island in Georgia. Nothing is ever easy, and for the group walking across the country, COVID-19 had no mercy. By the time the team made it to New Mexico, everything had begun to shut down. They decided to break and resume the walk in May of that year, finishing one month later in Santa Monica, California.

Many smaller walks took place as the mission’s reach began to grow. In 2022, now under, John and others launched #22states22days, where they walked 2.2 miles at 22 state capitals in 22 consecutive days to raise awareness for veteran suicide and PTSD.

By now, John and the non-profit he founded,, had a clear mission to walk and raise awareness of the plight of veterans, including PTSD, TBI, MST, addiction, homelessness, benefits, and the suicide epidemic. Along the way, the team supports other veterans and veteran advocates, encouraging them to join on the walk, even for a day.

Cross Country Walk: May we never forget U.S. Marine Steven Osborne EOW March 10, 2022

Everything had been doing had meaning, but when John Ring became aware of U.S. Marine Steven Osborne’s death in March of 2022, he knew he had to do something. Not only to bring massive awareness to the veteran suicide epidemic but to honor Steven’s young son. It was then that the next mission was established, the Cross-Country PTSD Warrior’s Walk set to begin in Key West, Florida, and end in San Diego, California, to present an American Flag courtesy of Flags of Honor Escorts and to Steven’s eight-year-old son, David Osborne.

This 2813-mile trek across the United States would ultimately involve many people, participants, volunteers, and supporters. The team, consisting of many along the way, would bear lousy weather and lack of sleeping accommodations, depending on VFW and American Legion Posts along the way to provide a night’s rest and a decent meal. Each would face their demons while meeting real people with stories and challenges of their own. All of whom extended a handshake, hug, and a thank you for the people carrying the American Flag.

On March 22, 2024, they all gathered: the walkers, Steven Osborne’s family, including his son David, at the USS Midway in San Diego. There, on the deck of that ship, sat a young boy who had lost his dad to suicide. For all involved in the walk, the mission flag was meant to show this little boy how much he is loved and remembered and to help spread Steven Osborne’s final message shared in a letter he wrote before his death.

Read a Final Cry for Help by Steven Osborne on the website.

 The Mission Continues

As of March 2024, the team has covered more than 6,000 miles, and the walk will continue with a planned walk in 2025 from Normandy to Berlin.

“The first walk, I was wanting to learn. I had been through Fort Benning, and leaving there, I understood that Soldiers were messed up. I understood why they were messed up and how hard it was to overcome. I don’t think they will ever 100% heal, but they can learn how to live with their traumas. So, the first walk was me learning how all different generations of veterans have suffered, how each has their own story, how some struggle, and some don’t.”

“We’re not all the same. That’s one of the biggest lessons anybody can learn. I don’t care if you’re in the military or if you work at Wendy’s; we’re not all the same. What impacts me may not impact you. If people worldwide would understand that right there, our lives would be totally different.”

“Some days on this walk, I walk with others and hear their stories. Somedays, I walk alone inside my head. I thought I had it all figured out, but this walk has proven I have nothing figured out. But it is opening my eyes to be a better person. I’m learning much about myself, my life, and my mistakes. My goal for others is to join me, lace up, and get out of their comfort zone.” – John Ring


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