SEATTLE - Frustrated by inaction from the Department of Veteran Affairs, a local disabled veteran will embark on a cross-country road trip to help combat the growing number of veteran suicides in the United States.
Scott Hicks of Grants Pass, Oregon will travel at least 10,000 miles in a rundown 1965 Volkswagen Beetle, stopping at veteran hot spots to swap stories, share coping techniques, and inspire others to support mental health programs for soldiers.
"There's a statistic that shows twenty-two veterans a day die from committing suicide," Hicks said. "Most of them die from PTSD and depression."
Medically discharged in 2002, a training accident left Hicks with a broken back and a myriad of injury-related problems to face when he returned home. Hicks waited for more than a month to see a doctor in one case, and encountered dozens of veterans who were also unable to find the help they needed.
Hoping to ease the online search for resources, Hicks launched "Inspire Veterans," a website that provides local resources and support to wounded soldiers in need.
"I have a passion for my brothers and sisters in arms who are suffering, and I want to make a difference, or a change if I can," Hicks said.
Along the way, Hicks will be interviewing soldiers who want to share their stories on camera. The interviews will be available to watch for free on the Internet, and will give anyone suffering from depression or PTSD the hope they need to make it through the day, Hicks said.
"The hardest part is most of these guys don't want to talk," Hicks said. "They'd rather stay quiet, but they're not getting any help."
So far, Hicks' grassroots movement has him speaking at events in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Washington D.C.
He'll drive out first to Oroville, California on June 29, and says that his destination list is growing as more people hear about the project.
No money is being made off the trip, and Hicks set up an online donation website to help fund the project. He plans to sleep in the Volkswagen, and eat military-style MRE's as his main source of food.
"It's not about me, it's not about the drive," Hicks said. "This is not a moneymaker. This is to raise awareness and help other veterans."
Hicks will share his journey via the Inspire Veterans page on Facebook. Those interested in contacting Hicks or supporting his cause can check out Inspire Veterans.