MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Tuesday, on New Years Eve, one veteran completed a mission he began in San Juan Capistrano, California in February, of walking over 3,000 miles across the country, by ending it in Myrtle Beach.
“I did it! It’s done. It’s amazing,” U.S. Army retired Staff Sergeant Van Booth exclaimed once he made it to Plyler Park in Myrtle Beach Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been looking at this park in pictures and photographs and satellite pictures for a long time, anticipating this moment.”
Al Jarvis, one of the first to get to embrace booth at the end of his journey, says Booth was one of the original members of Freedom Sings, an organization that writes songs for veterans with PTSD, and that the walk alone was symbolic of Booth’s own struggle with the illness.
“It’s a symbol of healing for him,” said Jarvis. “This walk has been extremely therapeutic for him.”
“I have an understanding of what it’s like to go through that, you know, and a lot of people don’t. We have 22 veterans a day taking their lives to suicide, veteran suicide, so it’s something I’m pretty passionate about, trying to get veterans to seek help, but not only that, but try to find something they used to enjoy, and go after that,” said Booth as he reflected on his 3,135 mile trek.
There wasn’t a shortage of difficulties he met along the way.
“Walking by roadkill in the heat of the summer. That was pretty bad. I got woken up by an earthquake, yeah, I was jarred awake at four in the morning in Kansas,” he said.
Booth says there’s one thing everyone can continue to do for veterans who may be struggling.
“A lot of veterans, they just want to be listened to, you know, so a lot of times, all you’ve got to do is just listen. You don’t have to say anything, just listen to them, you know. Be empathetic,” Booth replied.
Booth carried a guitar without strings on his walk, and added a string every 500 miles, as a symbol of healing.
He says his plans over the next couple of days are to stay in Myrtle Beach and to ring in the new year with his girlfriend.