Chicago Veterans was graciously invited by The British Consulate-General of Chicago for an afternoon tea event to welcome the Walking with The Wounded members to Chicago, as part of their Walk of America. Starting in Los Angeles, six wounded veterans, three from the United States and three from the United Kingdom walked 1000 miles in 12 weeks from the west to the east coast including a special stop in the Windy City. The walk helped create a platform to tell the stories of our wounded and their individual journeys from injury to the present day and more specifically provides a platform to engage in a wider conversation around mental health.
The afternoon tea reception was hosted on the top floor of one of Chicago’s tallest buildings with stunning 360-degree views of our magnificent city but meeting the six veterans and hearing their stories is what was truly breathtaking. Johnny Burns, one of the six veterans from the UK, told a teary story of how he overcame a destructive childhood and joined the military only to have his childhood fears clash with his time in the service, causing him to be medically discharged and forced to go back home. The entire room was in complete silence as each one of these veterans shared their heroic stories and how they are working to overcome their obstacles.
Frankie, another veteran who is tackling the 1000-mile journey, is a Puerto Rico native. Frankie signed up with the Army in 2001 as a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and was assigned to the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. During his deployment to Iraq, Frankie was struck by an IED and spent the following 10 years suffering from PTSD and a Traumatic Brain Injury. Frankie shared his story of how he hit rock bottom in 2018 and attempted to take his own life, he was incubated for 30 hours. Realizing that he needed to turn his life around, Frankie began volunteering with veteran organizations and found therapy through music and art. An avid guitar player and artist, Frankie has started offering therapy through art to other veterans in the community.
Chicago Veterans was honored to be invited and partake in this great event. No matter where a veteran comes from we all share a common bond. Whether it’s through art and music or volunteering and sharing your story, we as veterans need to find an outlet to heal, it is ok to ask for help. When in combat the person to your right and left are depending on you as you are depending on them. If you are a veteran and don’t believe you need help then take the time to speak to another veteran because he or she might just need you.