PALM SPRINGS – Two U.S. Marine Corps veterans will set out today on a walk from Palm Springs to Phoenix to raise money for wounded veterans and create awareness of the issues they face, including suicide.
Adam Shatarsky and Ross Delafield are part of The Wounded Walk, a Leesburg, Virginia-based nonprofit that supports physical and mental post- combat treatment for veterans.
Shatarsky said he and Delafield will leave today from the Palm Springs Hilton and follow Interstate 10 through the Mojave Desert, walking the 300-plus miles in roughly 10- to 12-mile increments.
”People are showing up to walk with us, it’s a pretty great community we’ve created,” Shatarsky told City News Service.
He and Delafield — who will carry U.S. and Marine Corps flags — will stop in Thousand Palms on Saturday, Indio on Sunday and Coachella on Monday, with a Sept. 1 estimated arrival in Phoenix.
Updates on the walk, dubbed ”Mission Mojave,” will be posted on Twitter, Facebook and at www.thewoundedwalk.org.
One of the main reasons the men are walking is to raise awareness of the ”epidemic” of veteran suicides — an estimated 22 veterans take their own lives every day — and of the VA health care crisis, according to a Wounded Walk statement.
Members of The Wounded Walk walked from Camp Pendleton to Washington, D.C., in 2013 and from New York City to Washington last April.
Shatarsky said they are walking through the desert in summer on purpose.
”We picked a very daunting task because we have this message we want to get across, (and) we needed something crazy enough to work,” he said. ”People take notice. No one will listen to our message, so that’s why we choose the Mojave or walking with a 40-pound log because we represent that walking struggle.”
Delafield carried the log from New York to Washington in memory of veterans who committed suicide.
Shatarsky served in the Marines for four years and was stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines Weapons Company at Camp Pendleton. In 2011, he served in Japan during the search and recovery effort after the devastating earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Tohoku.
Delafield was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, and in 2001 was involved in a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
The Wounded Walk is currently raising money to help veterans who face medical bills and need prosthetics.