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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 65  |  August 14, 2020


USMC veteran and Palo Alto Firefighter walks across California to raise awareness for PTSD

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On the afternoon of Thursday, Feb 6, USMC veteran and Palo Alto Firefighter John Preston, who walked from the Bay Area to San Diego to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder, made a stop in Laguna Beach. 

His 28-day journey began in Palo Alto on January 13 and concluded at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 9.

His brother, a retired USMC veteran and police officer, committed suicide after falling ill to PTSD, and Preston has made it his life goal to bring awareness to this issue. 

USMC veteran John

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John Preston speaks at Laguna Beach Fire Station #1

The name of Preston’s website 22andyou.net reflects the staggering statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

Preston had a production team with him on his journey and public safety agencies along the coast of California banded together to support him as he made the trek through their respective cities. Pat Cary, Engineer Paramedic 1A at theLaguna Beach Fire Department, said, “Our goal was to have a fire engine and off duty members support him throughout city.” 

USMC veteran firefighters

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John Preston accepts donation to “22 and You” from the LB Professional Firefighters Association 

“At the core of this endeavor, I am a little brother who lost his older brother. I will walk forward for our community as I have for my family these past few years. Every day, every mile I walk, symbolizes a life. A life of someone that believed they could no longer be here and decided their only option was death. I will do all I can to stop this epidemic that has struck our nation’s veterans, law enforcement officers, and firefighters,” says Preston.

USMC veteran camper

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Veteran and musician John Preston hiked 28 days to help veterans struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress (PTS). He wants them to know that their lives matter and that they can still have a positive impact on the world.

On the final day, Preston posted on his website, “The journey has been long and painful. We have met so many incredible and inspiring people along the way. We have shared stories and shared tears and have talked about the importance of knowing when to ask for help. Without help, this journey would not have been.” 

In a video posted on Facebook on Sunday morning, Preston said, “We’re beginning the final day that will end in San Diego. In everything we do, we’ve gotten support of a lot of people who have fought their own battles. I get to show the next generation – my son – that if anyone feels alone, we can ‘Share the Weight.’” Preston then handed his backpack off to a Firefighter to carry. “He will keep the weight off my back for the day.” 

USMC veteran police

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LB Police Employee Association makes a donation 

As Preston and his team pressed on to finish the journey to San Diego, I spoke with him Sunday at midday. He said, “I didn’t do this alone. For the first time, I asked for help. I thought I’d be out there as the anchor, but the community has picked me up and carried me. Asking for help to physically carry the burden is a metaphor for carrying the emotional burden. I wish my brother had known we are all there for each other.” 

For more information on 22 for you, go to www.22foryou.net.

 

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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