U.S. Navy veteran walking across America to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder

U.S. Navy veteran walking across America to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder
Posted at 6:01 PM, Oct 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-24 18:01:03-04

MILFORD, Ohio -- David Dibble has gotten hundreds of miles by focusing on the next 6 feet. He plans to get thousands more miles doing the same.

Dibble, a U.S. Navy veteran, is walking across the continent to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he couldn't just sit on his couch while so many were struggling, so he left Washington D.C. in June and plans to make his way to San Francisco.

Studies show more than 5 million U.S. adults have experienced PTSD in a given year. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 7 percent to 8 percent of people in the general U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. For members of the armed forces, the numbers are significantly higher:

  • Up to 20 percent of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD in a given year.
  • About 12 percent of Gulf War veterans suffer from PTSD in a given year.
  • Nearly a third of Vietnam War veterans, about 30 percent, have had PTSD in their lifetimes.

Dibble, like other veterans, have seen how bad the effects of PTSD can be: Many times, those suffering from PTSD turn to drug and alcohol abuse to cope.

"They're heroes, and if those veteran courts don't get involved, then these heroes end up in jail," he said.

His goal is to prevent that from happening by visiting cities nationwide. In Milford, Dibble caught up with Miami Township Fire Chief Steve Kelly, who also knows firsthand the effects of PTSD through his fellow first responders and those they serve.

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Regardless of who PTSD affects, the message always is acceptance.

"Telling people that it's OK to address that as a real concern," Kelly said. "People suffer physical aliments all the time. There's nothing wrong with admitting if there is some kind of physiological or mental ailment as well where you need assistance."

With a little word of mouth from city to city, Dibble's journey goes on.

"I'm not out here alone, really. I walk each step and I take them with me," he said.