Monday, May 24, 2010

U.S. Marine Veteran Dan Stepel Answers Why He Will Walk 12,000 Miles to Spotlight PTSD

Here is a guest post from U.S. Marine veteran Dan Stepel:

PTSD Walk Across America -- You Are Not Alone: A 12,000-mile journey covering all 50 states to increase awareness of and raise funds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) help for active-duty military personnel and veterans.

Mission of the Walk:

• To let those active-duty military personnel and veterans dealing with PTSD know that they are not alone and that assistance is available to help them to deal with the day-to-day issues that are associated with the invisible wound.

• To raise awareness among the general population of the growing problem of PTSD with the recently returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

• To reduce the stigma attached to the invisible wound.

• To raise money to fund programs that will best fit the special needs of active-duty military personnel and veterans with PTSD.

My name is Dan Stepel. I am a 47-year-old U.S. Marine veteran. On September 11, 2010, I will start a walk of 12,000 miles covering all 50 states to raise awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- sometimes called the “invisible wound.”

When I first started to formulate this idea I was asked by friends WHY? Why would you put your life on hold for two years? You have a business and a wife. Why do this?

The answer came to me in a moment of perfect clarity:

Because this is what we veterans do!

Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not new. My great-great-great-grandfather Henry Odom fought at Gettysburg among many other Civil War battles. Several years after the war he applied for a pension and was granted the sum of $108 a year due to his “ongoing nervous condition.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan collectively have been going on now for almost nine years. That is longer than the U.S. involvement in both world wars combined. What will be the long-term effect of this prolonged exposure to combat?

On the morning of April 18, 2010, Jesse Charles Huff walked up to the Veterans Affairs Department’s Medical Center wearing U.S. Army fatigues and battling pain from his Iraq war wounds and a recent bout with depression. This was not Jesse’s first visit to the VA. He had been to this very hospital several times before but was sent home with only strong pain killers. This time he was determined to get some relief. Jesse put a military-style rifle to his head and pulled the trigger. He fell dead near the foot of a Civil War statue, his blood covering portions of the front steps. Jesse Charles Huff was 27 years old.

Each day 18 veterans commit suicide. That is an average of 126 veterans per week -- 6,552 veterans per year -- who are not getting the help they need. The sad part is that if something is not done these numbers will be going up.

The Idea for the Walk:

A 12,000 mile walk across the United States making at least one stop in all 50 states.

To go where I will do the most good and generate the most attention. To let those who are suffering from PTSD know that they are not alone and that help is out there.

Funds raised during this two-year event will go to training and providing more PTSD counsellors to meet the ever-rising demand and for other PTSD-related services.

Along with the walk there is to be a well-planned and well-coordinated public relations campaign. This will ensure that people will know I am coming well in advance of my arrival.

The walk’s Facebook page is at and the Twitter account is

The Campaign:

I am calling the walk a “campaign” because I have modelled it after a presidential campaign.

We will enlist supporters throughout the country to handle their own local areas. They will be tasked to spread the word and to do the advance work to ensure that we get the most out of the local activities. For example, if there is to be a county fair in Johnson County at the time I’ll be walking through there, I will make sure I am at the fair.

I envision that most of these supporters will come from the local VFWs. There is really a tremendous amount of things that can be put together by people with expert local knowledge.


Rather than just solicit donations from companies we have taken another approach. We have created a value-added proposition that will both maximize the benefits sponsors receive by attaching their company brand to this current and most noble of causes while at the same time allowing the sponsor the flexibility of reaching a national audience as well as specifically targeted regions and areas of development.

We will also add a sponsor’s brand to our full-out social media campaign, for which you will have your own dedicated page on the walk’s website. We anticipate this to be a very high traffic site as interest in the walk grows.

From your own sponsorship page there will be opportunities to offer coupons and to announce special promotional events that will coincide with my arrival at your venue. These arrivals will be met with local media and a great deal of local interest.

Value-Added Social Media Marketing Component for PTSD Walk Across America:

In order to facilitate the largest possible media exposure for this project, PTSD awareness, and the sponsors of the project, there will be a social media marketing component during the entire period of the walk:

All sponsorship levels (silver, gold and platinum) along with project fund recipients will receive:

• An entire page on the project website (this page can include special offers)
• Written and video material on utilizing social media to promote the project and the sponsor’s role
• Twice-monthly group one-hour webinars to learn about and implement social media marketing for the project
• Password-protected website forum to share social media marketing plans and strategies in support of this project

Gold-level and platinum-level sponsors will also receive:

• A monthly group one-hour webinar for advanced social media strategies focusing on sponsor’s products and services in conjunction with this project
Platinum-level sponsors will also receive:
• An individual monthly one-hour coaching session to develop value-added social media marketing strategies for the sponsor

Email Dan at if you are interested in being a sponsor of the project. And be sure to join the Facebook PTSD Walk page at


Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. Her project offers information on recognizing PTSD symptoms. Phyllis' company does power marketing that combines traditional marketing principles and Internet marketing strategies to put power in your hands.

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