Veteran walking cross country makes stop in Casper

(Casper, Wyo.) Central Wyoming Counseling Center is welcoming Navy veteran and VetZero founder Tommy Zurhellen to Casper Sunday, June 9 during his walk across the country in support of veteran suicide and homelessness.

Zurhellen, a Marist College English professor, began his 3,000-mile solo journey April 15 in Portland, Oregon, and has walked across Idaho and is now in Wyoming. He’ll continue though Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan and will end his journey in New York in late August. His goal is to walk an average of 22 miles everyday to honor the 22 veterans who take their own lives every day. Zurhellen doesn’t have a tent, and he only sleeps indoors when he can find someone to take him in, which replicates the experience of an estimated 40,387 homeless veterans in America. This is also the dollar amount he’s hoping to raise at https://www.gofundme.com/vetzero.

In Wyoming, veteran and civilian suicide is a huge concern among mental health organizations like Central Wyoming Counseling Center (CWCC), especially with one of the nation’s highest suicide rates.

“It can be very difficult for veterans to open up and talk about their experiences. When they’re facing depression and other behavioral health concerns alone, it can tragically lead to suicide. We need to get our returning heroes the treatment they need. Tommy’s journey and visit to Casper is a great way to get that conversation going and show other veterans they have a community behind them ready to help,” CWCC CEO Kevin Hazucha said.

Zurhellen’s journey has taken him through rain, snow, hunger, pain and the mental grind of walking 8 hours everyday for the last several weeks. He arrived in Wyoming May 27, and is scheduled to reach Casper Saturday, June 8, weather permitting.

“It’s not surprising that Wyoming’s suicide rates are so high, because it’s easy to feel lonely out here,” Zurhellen said as he was walking outside of Rawlins. “Veterans need to talk to other veterans, but a lot of times they don’t want to talk. When you live in a rural area like Wyoming, it’s even harder to connect to those circles. But I have been amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people here, so there’s a lot of hope,” he said.

To learn more about Zurhellen and his mission, visit https://veteranzero.org, and get updates on his journey at https://www.facebook.com/veteranzero. Zurhellen is available to the media via phone when services permits and can be contacted anytime through his Facebook page.

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