Pearland 4k walk to raise funds and awareness for mental health needs of veterans

Pearland 4k walk to raise funds and awareness for mental health needs of veterans

Dustin Pressley, 34, has spent most of his adult life as a Marine.

He joined when he was 17, and from 2006 to 2019 he completed two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and he traveled the world with a Marine Expeditionary Unit as a first responder.

The Purple Heart recipient is medically retired from the Marine Corps.

But not all war wounds are visible, Pressley said.

“People recognize my physical injuries, but no one has ever recognized the mental stuff because it’s not something that shows,” he said.

Pressley is among veterans who will take part in the ninth annual Walk for Mental Health this Saturday, a 2.5-mile (4 km) walk that begins and ends in the parking lot of the Pearland Natatorium and Recreation Center, 4141 Bailey Road in Pearlland.

The 8:45 a.m. walk is free for veterans with ID or military service documentation. Registration for others is $20 for adults and free for those under 17 accompanied by an adult.

Hike for Mental Health is also the name of a Pearland-based non-profit group that raises awareness of mental health issues through fundraising through nature hikes, with proceeds going to research on the brain. Saturday’s walk will shine a light on the mental health of veterans and proceeds will go to Camp Hope – PTSD Foundation of America and Pearland VFW Post 7109.

What: The Ninth Annual Walk for Mental Health, a 2.5 mile (4 km) walk to shine a light on the mental health of military veterans, with proceeds going to Camp Hope – PTSD Foundation of America and Pearland VFW Post 7109.

When: Saturday November 12. Check-in is from 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. The Veterans Honor Ceremony is at 8:30 a.m. and the march begins at 8:45 a.m.

Where: The walk begins and ends at the parking lot of the Pearland Natatorium and Recreation Center, 4141 Bailey Road in Pearland.

Cost: Free for veterans with some form of military service identification or documentation. $20 for other adults and free for children under 17 accompanied by an adult.


Founded by Friendswood-area resident Leo Walker in 2011, the Hike for Mental Health group has raised over $500,000 for brain behavior research.

“Mental health is still at that stage where people tend not to tell others about it,” Walker said. “It’s not a character flaw, it’s a condition.”

Walker explained how World War II and Korean-era veterans were told they were “shocked” by their wartime experiences. There was no name for the trauma they suffered and generations of veterans suffered in silence.

“I think people in military service and in combat have a hard time admitting when they need help,” he said.

Walker’s father was a Korean veterinarian, but it was through his mother that he learned how misunderstood mental health issues plagued his family.

“When you’re a kid you don’t realize what it is and you learn to deal with it, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized not all families go through this” , Walker said. “Part of the reason I’m focusing on vets is that as we learn more (about mental health), we won’t have kids growing up with mental health issues. “

This experience and a passion for the healing effects of hiking in nature led to the creation of Hike for Mental Health.

For Pressley, who attended her first Mental Health Walk last year, the event is a way to connect with other vets who need help coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. . Coping with his own trauma was also not easy for him at first.

Pressley said he lost nearly 100 friends to suicide and was an eyewitness to two of those deaths.

“The first time, I was on the phone with one of my buddies for four hours, and I think I talked him out of it,” Pressley said.

Pressley had the instinct to watch his friend, but by the time he got home, it was too late. This incident led to Pressley’s first of two suicide attempts.

The second attempt came after watching another friend commit suicide with a gun.

Survivor guilt is heavy among vets, he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among veterans is disproportionate to the general population.

“There’s always this feeling that when a person is in that dark place, we could have done more,” Pressley said.

He survived his own suicide attempts but fell into addiction.

“I used alcohol to cope, and it finally caught up with me,” Pressley said.

Pressley will be four years sober on December 17 and counts his wife, three daughters and his faith as his main stabilizers. Telling his story has also helped, he said, as has finding outlets at organizations like Hike for Mental Health and through his church.

“One of the biggest things that has helped me — because I’ve never wanted to share my story before — is that I almost use it as a testimony of what faith has done for me,” said he declared.

During the march, Pressley will have a table where people can come and pray for “anything that is close to their hearts or that is a burden”.

“What this march does, especially for me, shows that there are civilians who care about us, and it shows that we are in this as a family,” he said.

Military personnel in general, Pressley said, are good at hiding the inner scars that often come with surviving combat, losing friends and coming home.

“They taught us all about surviving abroad, but we are not taught how to get back to normal life,” he said.

The military is getting better, he said, at recognizing the mental health needs of its vets, but it will take more conviction for some vets to ask for help.

“A lot of times we build our pride because we’re taught to deal with anything that comes our way,” Pressley said. “We’re warriors, but we’re also human, and vets can be hard to open up.”

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