BULL VALLEY, Ill. – A 20-mile horseback ride called “Trail to Zero” raised awareness and money for veterans and suicide prevention on Sunday.
All of the veterans who attended have experienced trauma.
When Paul Martinez came home, it was an adjustment he wasn’t prepared for.
“I was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, went to Afghanistan six times, I was a sniper,” Martinez said. “I loved my job, but while you’re doing it at the time, you don’t realize what you’re going through.
The support of fellow soldiers, knowing they all have jobs and have your back, changes when they come home. That’s where the horses come in.
“And that’s what really brings you back,” said Martinez. “Then once you’re here and standing on this ground and you look around. You’re like ‘okay, I’m really home.'”
The horses calm the veterans, make them focus and be in the moment.
“I had that moment years ago when I was on a horse and it changed my life,” Martinez said.
The number of veterans who take their own lives is much higher than the general public: about 20 a a day.
The trauma of war leaves too many of them mentally ill or addicts, homeless and lost. The horses center them and help them live their lives more peacefully.