One of our supporters, Eileen, asked if we could walk in memory of her nephew today. Today would have been his birthday. I asked Eileen if she would write our blog today in memory of her nephew. This is what she shared with us:
December 19, 2013
Hi Anthony and Tom. I hope you had a restful night last night. Just got up myself and found your text asking if I would write for your blog. I was somewhat hesitant, as you both write so beautifully. I wiped a tear from my eye and told myself I need to do this. First, thank you both for the gift you are giving me this Christmas, the gift of Hope. Thanks too, to both of your families for supporting your journey. I have so many thoughts running through my mind right now. I will attempt to put them together in some way so people reading your blog want to listen as much as I want to share my families’ story. Stephen is the reason I met you both. I wish I could thank him today for helping me make the acquaintance. Sgt. Stephen J. Keyes USMC, my nephew would be 27 today. When Stephen died this past February I was made aware of a horrible statistic. On February 20th 2013, Stephen became one of 22 veteran suicides that happen each and every day. After Stephens’ funeral, after seeing some of his wounded warrior comrades and wondering how I could live part of his life out, I had to do something. I had to do something or Stephens’ life would be over. Fast forward to August of this year; I read about Anthony and Tom in the newspaper. This is it I told my husband, I want to walk with these guys in spirit the whole 2700 miles. I want to do whatever I can. I know Stephen would probably say these guys are crazy, but he would support them every step of the way too. After emailing Tom and Anthony and asking if I could physically walk with them the first day, I told them I would raise $20 per mile for the first 20 miles. I did that and then some. My family knows when I get passionate about something I mean it. I prepared for the walk by making my own “Veterans Trek” shirt. I did a few long walks and even managed a 6 mile walk before the big day. I arrived at the Veterans Memorial on 8/30/2013 and the first thing I saw after spotting Anthony and Tom was their rucks. My immediate thought on what would be the hottest day of our summer was, “holy crap”. “I don’t have a clue”. I don’t have a clue. I have no idea what it is like to serve in the armed forces, no idea the vivid images consuming a soldiers mind when they try to sleep. I can go to a Milwaukee Brewers or Milwaukee Bucks game and not become overwhelmed with anxiety when I sit among a crowd of thousands. If I had a fellow comrade die next to me or become severely injured, I could never imagine it. Stephen saw many things when he served in Afghanistan and was part of the humanitarian efforts in Haiti. There are many who have and will continue to serve. I will never have an understanding of how that will change those soldiers’ lives or how it changed Stephens’s life or Anthony and Tom’s lives. To Anthony and Tom and anyone with PTSD and your families, I hope your lonely moments will be few and far between. I hope the pain in your lives will be a reason to live more and die less. I hope you will reach out for help and I hope when you reach, a hand will be there to hold you as long as you need. On a personal note to Stephen: I will be here for you and your mom and dad and Patrick, I will always carry some of who you are with me, until I meet you again to play “Just Dance”. Do me a favor, if you are reading over my shoulder Stephen. Take Grandpa, Ryan and Kaitlin to breakfast and get your military discount. On a personal note to Anthony and Tom: I love your music posts. You guys have great taste in music. Even though you are walking, could you post a link to “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice? You guys are awesome. Thanks for all that you are doing and have done for Dryhootch and Veterans. Walk on, Peace Eileen
Thank you, Eileen, for sharing your story and for your support.
Anthony and Tom