Earlier this year Puerto Rico Service Platoon Leader Frankie Perez embarked on a 3 month, 1000 mile journey, walking across America with three British and two American veterans with Walking with the Wounded. The group started in Los Angeles on June 2nd and finished in New York City September 6th with a special appearance from former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.
The walk was intended to create a platform to tell the stories of wounded veterans 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. Today, we bring you some reflections from Frankie on this experience.
The goals of the walk are goals that Frankie has been working toward for several years now. “I’ve been working hard since 2014 to deliver suicide and mental health awareness, whether you’re a veteran or not — that’s my drive, so this was my big door to go out there and deliver that message.”
The impact of this experience was huge for Frankie. “I never thought I would be able to reach out to so many people. When non-veterans start reaching out to you, you know that’s when you’re going a good job, the right way. It was a powerful experience to interact with other people — veterans and non-veterans who share that experience.”
Now, Frankie is taking the momentum back home to Puerto Rico, where his goal is to start a veteran legacy of service. “Being a veteran in Puerto Rico is hard, and I always wanted to make a difference [on the island].”
So far the service platoon is off to a strong start, but there’s always room for more helping hands. “I would love to encourage people to actually try to be part of the hurricane recovery here in Puerto Rico. There’s a lot to do. And as a platoon leader with The Mission Continues, I’m looking toward partnering with other platoon leaders and organizations to make that recovery happen.”
The through line that brings his experience with Walking with the Wounded together with his volunteer and leadership in Puerto Rico is the Bob Woodruff Foundation. “The support from the Bob Woodruff Foundation during this journey has been amazing. It’s very impressive the way they love to support veterans in the community, I really love it. Thanks goes out to them for making things happen in Puerto Rico!”