Marine sets trek to raise funds for PTSD
A North Fort Myers U.S. Marine Corps veteran will walk 140 miles across the state of Florida in hopes to raise awareness and funds for those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD.
SSgt. Oscar A. Rauda will set out on his journey Sept. 30, logging 25 miles per day, and expects to arrive in West Palm Beach Oct. 5, raising money for the Injured Warriors Fund of Florida-a not for profit organization that secures funds from the general public to assist residents of Florida who have been severely injured in combat while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I’m walking across Florida to raise awareness for PTSD, and for my brothers and sisters who are struggling,” Rauda said of his expedition.
He will start his trek at the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library in Cape Coral at 1 p.m., with a free barbecue at noon to get friends, family and other veterans together to support Rauda’s cause.
He knows first hand how PTSD can be crippling to service personnel returning home from war.
It’s something that stays with you, it doesn’t just go away, he said.
“I’ve had my battles with PSTD, and still do,” Rauda said. “I’ve lost my ex-wife, kids, friends. I’m still learning how to deal with it now.”
Rauda was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps from march of ’97 until January of ’13, having served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said that the V.A., Vietnam Veterans of America and the Semper Fi Fund all played a role in getting him back on his feet and helped mediate his issues with PTSD.
Being surrounded by fellow veterans, who are going through the same trauma, is what Rauda said helped him most.
“Once I knew I was not by myself, it helped,” he said. “I’m not the only one managing (PTSD).”
Rauda won’t have to manage his walk alone either, as he will have supporters walking with him throughout certain parts of his journey, especially on day one, as a group will accompany him to Fort Myers to get the trip started.
“Whoever wants to walk with me, can,” he said.
A safety vehicle will follow Rauda throughout the week and will stop at designated checkpoints for food, water and any medical needs.
The retired Marine has been training for two months in preparation, carrying a 50-pound pack, every other day, for nine miles.
He feels he is ready to accomplish his goal, the only precaution being the Florida heat he will endure.
“I feel the first day will be the most difficult,” Rauda said, adding he is happy to know he will have supporters with him.
His destination will not just be to the other side of the state, but a Marine Corps League Convention at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott Hotel, where he will be welcomed with open arms by fellow veterans after what is sure to be a grueling week.
Rauda is thrilled with the outpouring of support he has already received from local veterans and PTSD awareness advocators, as donations and supplies-other than monetary- such as water and Gatorade, have come in to help keep Rauda and all that walk with him stay hydrated.
Though the journey he is about to undertake is certainly impressive, the focus remains one thing; to raise awareness for PTSD and those who experience its affect both mentally and physically when returning home from duty.
His advice for those who may be struggling with the disorder, “You’re not alone. You should talk about it, now that’s easier said than done, but you have to remember you’re not alone, and that we can fight this together.”
All are invited to his send off on Saturday, where donations to his cause can be made.
Cash or check donations are being accepted, with checks payable to MCL PFC Paul E. Ison Det. #60.
Donations can also be mailed to MCL Det. #60, PO Box 100841, Cape Coral, FL 33918.
The Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library is at 4820 Leonard Street.
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