Vet walks trail for veteran suicide awareness

By Christy Howell-Hoots - [email protected]
Eddie Arendell will be walking the Appalachian trail in honor of veterans who commit suicide. -

In a move to bring awareness to the 22 military veterans who commit suicide every day in this nation, one local man will be walking the Appalachian Trail.

Eddie Arendell will be leaving Maysville on June 4 to travel to Maine and begin his hike along the Appalachian trail. His journey will begin at the peak of Mount Katahdin on June 7 and end in Springer Mountain in Georgia.

“A lot of people will start the hike in Georgia and end in Maine, but I’m heading south instead, so I’ll have to climb the mountain and hike back down,” Arendell said. “It should make for about an eight- to 12-hour day.”

Arendell said the trail is 2,190 miles long and he plans to camp along the entire length.

“It can be treacherous in areas,” he said. “I’ll pass through Mount Washington, which has the highest man-recorded wind speed and the 100 mile wilderness, which is just like it sounds. I’ll be taking my pack with me that will have only the bare necessities in it. I’m estimating it will weigh about 21 pounds when I have it ready.”

Arendell said there are trail markings that will help him remain on the pathway.

“There are white markings on trees and rocks to let people know they’re on the right path,” he said. “If you’re walking it and you don’t see the white markings after awhile, you should probably turn around.”

Arendell hopes to return home by Veteran’s Day.

“My grandfather, Eddie Brierly, will be picking me up in Georgia, once I’ve completed the trail,” he said. “I’m hoping to be back by Veteran’s Day, but that will depend on how the walk goes along the way.”

Once he returns home, Arendell will finish the final 10 miles of the hike by walking from the America Legion post in Ripley, Ohio to the VFW post in Maysville.

“The Appalachian trail isn’t quite 2,200 miles,” he said. “I want to walk 100 miles for every veteran.”

The reason for Arendell’s trip is to put a spotlight on a national issue —veterans who commit suicide.

“It happens every day,” he said. “I’ve been talking to people about it and I’m reaching out, trying to spread the word. I’m hoping this walk can bring more awareness to the issue. More awareness means more prevention.”

Arendell is a veteran and the former post commander of the Maysville VFW.

After graduating high school, he joined the United States Marines.

“I signed up between my junior and senior years of high school,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to college. It was either go straight into the workforce or join the military. I wanted to serve my country.”

Arendell said he began basic training in South Carolina.

“I served from 2001 to 2005,” he said. “I trained at Paris Island in South Carolina and served 15 months in Okinawa, Japan. From there, I went to North Carolina and was deployed in Iraq for seven months.”

In 2005, Arendell left the Marines as an E4 corporal.

“It was the best decision I ever made for my life,” he said.

Arendell said his family supports his walk, but is concerned for his safety.

“Everything kind of fell into place for this. I’m not married and I don’t have kids. I was able to put my job on hold for now,” he said. “Everything just worked out perfectly. My family is very supportive, but, everyone is a little worried about the trail. The research I’ve done said three out of four people don’t finish the trail. They will give up before they finish because it’s so rough. It’s the world’s longest hiking path.”

Arendell will walk through 14 states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“I hope to use this walk to bring about more awareness,” he said. “When you’re talking about suicide, even one is too many.”

Eddie Arendell will be walking the Appalachian trail in honor of veterans who commit suicide. Arendell will be walking the Appalachian trail in honor of veterans who commit suicide.

By Christy Howell-Hoots

[email protected]