Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum (far right) is hiking 7,800 miles around the country to raise money for military families. Yocum walked into San Marcos Saturday, where he was joined by supporters, including Troy Levandoski of Round Rock, the drummer carrying a flag on his back. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum took some time Tuesday to speak to the Hays County Commissioners Court before he resumes his 7,800-mile hike to raise money for military families.
Yocum, 31, began his journey in Louisville on April 17. After arriving in California, Yocum headed east to Texas and arrived on foot in San Marcos Saturday afternoon at the head of a train of supporters, among whom were San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guererro and San Marcos Councilmember Jude Prather.
Yocum’s infected foot has held him up in San Marcos for a few days, though he’s expected to head towards New York soon with his wife Mareike Yocum and arrive back in Louisville in early September. Yocum said he expects to make loop around the U.S. through 30 states and 38 major cities.
Yocum said his goal is to raise $5 million for military families in need through donations and merchandise sales. The Wish Upon a Hero Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, receives and manages the donations.
Yocum spoke to commissioners of employment discrimination against ex-soldiers, and he asked the county to support incentives aimed at making employers more willing to hire war veterans and their spouses.
“Military families are just having the hardest time finding jobs,” Yocum said. “And there needs to be some type of incentive for employers to hire them. Because they’re just not doing it. They’re afraid of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Employers are afraid to hire the wives of deployed soldiers because they’re afraid they’re going to move in three or four years.”
Yocum lamented high incidences of suicide and PTSD among war veterans. Yocum said the comparatively large number of deployments endured by 21st century U.S. soldiers may be the main culprit.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the military suicide rate increased steadily during the past five years. According to the agency, military suicides average 12.5 suicides per 100,000, compared to the national average of 11.1 suicides per 100,000. Young women veterans are nearly three times as likely as civilians to commit suicide, according to a study published in December by researchers at Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University.
“You can’t go to war, and experience war, and come back and be 100 percent the person you were before the war,” said Yocum, who criticized the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for not being more proactive in providing support to soldiers, though he said there are similar problems in many countries.
Yocum said he and his wife have about 3,000 miles to go before their journey ends.Email | Print