Sherman, Texas: Man walks across country, raising awareness of veterans’ issues

SHERMAN, TX (CBS KXII) – One man is taking some extraordinary steps to help veterans and raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s traveling from his home town Desdemona, near Stephenville, Texas, all the way to Washington D.C. And this week he passed through Texoma.
Posted: 10:42 PM Sep 24, 2010
Reporter: Maddie Garrett
Email Address: maddie.garrett@kxii.com

SHERMAN, TX – One man is taking some extraordinary steps to help veterans and raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s traveling from his home town Desdemona, near Stephenville, Texas, all the way to Washington D.C. And this week he passed through Texoma.

John Ulstrom has seen his share of battle, serving in Vietnam, Desert Storm and then Kuwait. He retired as a chief Warrant Officer in the Navy in 2007. But now he’s fighting a different battle.

“It’s a very real disease and most people don’t understand it and I think the general public doesn’t understand how serious it is. There are very many military people who have it,” said Ulstrom.

Ulstrom is talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and this walk is for a friend’s son who suffered from PTSD.

“I asked him how’s your boy, and he said he’s not doing too good he killed himself,” said Ulstrom.

The boy, Joe Vitalec, recently committed suicide after returning home from Iraq. So every step John takes, he’s taking a step to raise awareness about soldier care. He’s walking his message all the way to Washington D.C.

“They have to come up with a better treatment and they have to get more, there’s a real shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and mental health workers,” said Ulstrom.

He left his home in Desdemona, TX on September 16, 2010, and made stops in Gainesville, Whitesboro and Sherman. He will head out Saturday to Bonham. Every town he usually gets a meal and a place to stay.

“I didn’t know it was going to cost me less money than I had anticipated, I was prepared to pay my own way,” he said.

But more importantly, he’s getting attention, especially from influential people like Jimmy Petty, Director of Veteran’s Services for Grayson County and an Army vet.

“I found him to be excited about what he’s doing and I found him to be focused on his task. I think he’s going to get the right awareness raised because of the type of guy he is,” said Petty.

He said even when a soldier returns home, the war may not be over.

“They’re still fighting the battle mentally and in some cases physically also,” said Petty.

John will walk 1,450 miles to D.C. where he’ll meet with Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Mike Conaway to discuss better PTSD care. He said this walk is for vets like Joe Vitalec.

“I’m doing it in his memory,” said Ulstrom.

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