Let the journey begin

Roads go ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

One week from beginning the journey, the Veterans embarking on this adventure are checking and re-checking their backpacks and sorting, time and again, the meager supplies that they will carry on the 500-mile French Camino.

The excitement of the unknown, the anticipation of tired and aching muscles, the eagerness to hear and share stories yet untold. The echoes of the millions of footsteps from over 1,000 years of Peregrinos already reverberating in their chests.

Dan, Piotr and Witold have stood the watch. Each have experienced the triumphs and the horrors brought about by battle. And each will undoubtedly find themselves revisiting those moments in the time and space that the Camino demands from each traveler walking The Way.

But we take this journey not only for ourselves, but also for our brothers and sisters who cannot be here with us in person. They will walk with us in spirit and in our thoughts. I will be personally walking this Camino in memory of Casey Saunier – a Marine who stood in the face of evil yet perished by his own demons.

I look forward to sharing what I can of this journey. Learn more about these remarkable Veterans as we leave our footprints on the way to Santiago de Compostella.

Thank you to each and every person who has helped make this possible by supporting Veterans on the Camino. Thank you to the VOC volunteers for their tireless efforts in bringing this all together. In particular, thank you to Jean Baptiste who has been a part of this program from the beginning and will once again be walking with us, carrying his trademark guitar like a troubadour of the medieval times.

I wish you all “Buen Camino” and look forward to sharing this story as it unfolds,

Brad Genereux
Founder of Veterans on the Camino

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The Final Mission

Kat called me to ask a favor. She had worked with me in Africa some years ago and we had become friends, despite my sending her to a remote location in Africa for several months.
“I’d like you to walk the Camino with a friend of mine.”
“Sure thing, tell me about your friend.”
Kat paused, “Our families have been close as long as I can remember, I grew up with Casey. I went to the USN Seabees and he went off to the Marine Corps. He did three combat tours, the first in Iraq and the other two in Afghanistan.”
She went silent for a moment, “He took his own life last December. I’m having a bracelet made and I was hoping you’d wear it in his memory as you walk the Camino.”
“Absolutely.”
I have since had a conversation with Duane, Casey’s father, which left us both choked with emotion. Duane told me more about his son.

Casey was born July 16, 1982 in Lafayette, LA and passed away December 12, 2017. He was only 35 years old.

Early on, he had dismissed the PTSD as something to be ignored thinking it would go away. I’m sure he looked at it as weakness as many Veterans do. He did finally seek help, later. Unfortunately, the help he received either wasn’t enough, was too late to work, or it simply wasn’t the kind of help Casey needed.
Casey didn’t leave a note or explanation. He leaves behind his family, including his five year old daughter, who are understandably devastated.
So, for Casey and his family, I will walk side by side with Casey on the Camino this spring. My steps will be devoted to his memory. The Compostella I receive upon arriving in Santiago will be dedicated to him.

To Casey, a fellow soldier who could not find his peace on this Earth.

 

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The ultimate sacrifice

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Did your soldier give the ultimate sacrifice in the interest of preserving our freedoms?

Are you interested in your soldier taking one more mission?

On this spring 2018 Camino, our group will be able to carry the dog tags or bracelet for 2 Veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Once we have completed the 500 mile pilgrimage, we will return the dog tags or bracelet along with the “compostella” from Santiago.  The compostella is the official document issued in Santiago that declares that the peregrino has completed the journey, your soldiers name will also appear on the compostella.

If you are interested in this, or know of somebody who may be interested, please contact me by 15 March 2018 for more information.Compostela

Meet the Veterans who will be walking the Camino de Santiago

Polish and me malistan district

Brad Genereux (center) flanked by Polish soldiers in Malistan district, Ghazni province, Aghanistan 2008
As spring nears, Veterans on the Camino is busily preparing for the next journey, slated to begin in April. The veteran participants have now been selected and are preparing themselves for this 500 mile pilgrimage. This year, Veterans on the Camino is proud to be joined by veterans from our coalition partners. The Spring 2018 Camino journey will include both American and Polish veterans. This is especially potent for me as I served side by side with the polish during my tour in Afghanistan.
Meet these Veterans. I think you’ll agree, they have paid a hefty toll in the interest of preserving freedom around the globe. I believe it’s important that we include our coalition partners. No. It’s critical…
Before introducing the Veterans, I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who have helped make VOC possible. Your generosity directly benefits the Veteran participants and enables VOC to carry out its mission. While I did not realize the extent of the help I would need at the outset of this journey, it is now clear to me that this would not be possible without the support of the amazing folks who have stepped up in support of VOC. But above all, I’d like to thank the Veterans who have stood the watch.
Here are the Veterans who will be walking the Camino:

Witold Kortyka

Witold

He was born in 1965 in Sztum, Poland and joined the Army in 1988 as a signaler. Witold served in the 13th Antiaircraft Regiment and the 16th Infantry Division in Elblag. He deployed to Iraq 2004-05 Camp Alpha Babylon (Wounded in Action), 2007-08 FOB Echo Ad Divaniah, 2008-09 Ad Divaniah (Wounded in Action), 2010-11 Camp Bondsteel Kosovo and 2012-13 FOB Ghazni, Afghanistan. He was medically retired after 26 years of service with disabilities. Witold is now an active member of the Associations of Wounded and Injured in Missions Outside of the country, helping veterans to get back home and is also a lecturer at the military communication training center.

Dan Huvane

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Dan Huvane enjoys writing, only not when it’s his own bio. He has served as either active duty or reserve in the US Marine Corps since 1996, including deployments to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2010-11, and Kosovo in 2000. Aside from continued Marine service in public affairs, Dan has worked in the past year as a ski maker, a sales rep, a wildland firefighting trainee, and a comm director for a disaster response nonprofit. A traveler, adventurer, communicator, volunteer and a big fan of mountains, he lives in Colorado where he’s very attached…to his sweet “wolf-dog” Daly. Dan is eager to make the pilgrimage to Santiago in memory of those he served with who made the ultimate sacrifice, and for his late brother Patrick James and his good friend Vince Gilligan Jr.

Piotr Zbikowski

Piotr

Piotr Zbikowski was born on 16th May 1978 in Szczecinek, Poland. He is happily married and the father of two young ladies named Zuzanna and Łucja. Piotr currently studies investigation psychology. His military career began in 1997 when he joined the Polish Navy. Like many modern sailors, he also took a tour away from the water when he spent 2 years in Afghanistan with a military police unit. In his free time, he enjoys travel and cooking.

These soldiers have stood the watch!

VOC needs your help. Enable us to take these deserving Veterans on the Camino by donating today. There are a number of ways to do that. Click on the paypal tab to donate right now, log onto smiles.amazon.com and select Veterans on the Camino, or contact me via the website for information on how to sponsor a Veteran.
By the way, every penny donated goes directly to help a Veteran. We have no paid positions at VOC!
UltreÏa et SuseÏa ~
Brad Genereux

Spring 2018 Camino

Congratulations to the Veterans who have been selected to participate in the Spring 2018 Camino!
We are excited to be able to include Veterans from Poland – one of many coalition partners. I personally served side by side with soldiers from Poland during my tour in Ghazni, Afghanistan. I can attest that they endured the same tribulations, they bled with us and some paid the ultimate price. They are brother and sister Veterans and I am proud to walk the Camino with them.
Chad hails from Tennessee and is a US Army Veteran. He served for 17 years and had multiple deployments including Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Witold is from Malbork, Poland and served in the Polish Army from 1988 – 2013 with deployments to Iraq, Kosovo and Ghazni, Afghanistan.
Grzegorz is from Kilinskiego, Poland. Grzegorz served in the Polish Army and was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Piotr is also from Poland and served two tours in Afghanistan with the Polish Army.
I encourage you to follow the website updates to learn more about these amazing Veterans, to read what they’ve been through, what they’ve sacrificed. And to follow along as they make their journey along the 500 mile Camino de Santiago.
Buen Camino!
Brad Genereux

Spring 2018 Camino Application

Applications for the VOC Spring Camino are now open! We are happy to announce that VOC is preparing for the next Camino trip slated for April-May 2018.
VOC is looking for Veteran applicants who stand to benefit from this journey of hope.  If you are a Veteran struggling with the adjustment to civilian life or are having difficulty dealing with issues relating to your military service, please consider applying to walk the Camino de Santiago with VOC.  If you know of a struggling Veteran, please pass this information along.
We will depart for the Spring Camino at the beginning of April 2018 and return mid-May 2018.  Over the course of the trip we will walk over 500 miles across northwestern Spain
If you wish to apply, please respond via the contact link with your email address and an Application form will be sent to you.  We accept applications from all coalition nation Veterans and only ask that each Veteran be able to converse in English.  Application deadline is 20 December 2017.  Each application will be reviewed by VOC’s selection committee with invitations to join the Spring Camino issued thereafter.  Once again, if you wish to apply for the Spring Camino, please respond by providing your email address and an Application will be forwarded to you.
VOC also needs your generous support to make this happen.  VOC provides each selected Veteran applicant with travel, boots & backpack and  per diem for the 40-day trip. Contributions are greatly appreciated and gladly accepted via PayPal. You can also contact the administrator to send payment directly to Veterans on the Camino.  We are a 501(c)(3) charity and all donations are tax deductible.  Any and every amount helps and will directly benefit the participating Veterans.

If you are unable to contribute financially, please help to spread the word so we can enable our Veterans to find “The Way”.

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Buen Camino,
Brad Genereux
President and Founder, VOC