Veteran Paddling Down Mississippi to Raise Awareness for PTSD

Created: 06/10/2014 7:09 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Winona State Student and St. Charles native, Josh Ploetz, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the Marine Corps for almost 8 years.  After joining a group called "Walk off the War," he decided to "paddle off the war." He began his journey across the Mississippi for himself and others facing PTSD.

Josh has been basically living out of his canoe since mid-May, and one stroke at a time, he's found his way. "Something has changed in my life or something deep inside of me that I haven't felt in a long time, you know, I told my friends I can’t stop smiling. My face hurts from laughing and smiling so much," said Josh.

It took the open water to get Josh to that point. He'd been battling PTSD after serving two deployments to Afghanistan. "I struggled with a lot of PTSD, and lot of anger issues, and a lot of moments that I didn't know how to control, or moments that I wasn't ready for yet," said Josh. With inspiration from other travelers, he turned to mother nature.

"I got on the water May 19th and I got off here June 6th," said Josh. He's now traveled 700 miles, a journey that started out as something just for him, but now, he says he's doing it also to spread awareness.

"I'm really happy to see that someone of a younger generation is taking an interest in PTSD, and trying to bring this information to the forefront, and make people more aware of it," said Sam Sasser, American Legion Post 9 in Winona.

"Twenty two veterans are killing themselves a day, committing suicide, or drug overdoses, and are dying on our home soil," said Josh.

Former service men we spoke with say, Josh’s efforts are inspiring. "I think it’s' very admirable. It's a great cause and a great effort on his part to do so," said Sasser.

"Tomorrow is a new day and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring," said Josh. He says his goal is to canoe all the way to St. Louis by July 5th and Venice, Louisiana by August 1st.