Most of us can look back on our lives and recognize one specific moment that changed our lives forever. For Tyler, this moment only took a few minutes of his life but will always be with him. Take a brief walk in his boots with me.
Tyler served in the US Army for 7 years and was deployed to Iraq from 2006 to 2007 and again to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2010. He is 30 years old, married, and has young children. As a result of his wartime deployments, Tyler suffers from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. While serving in Iraq, Tyler stopped a truck bomb (VBIED) from entering his patrol base and likely causing extensive damage and casualties to his fellow coalition forces. For his valiant and heroic actions that day, Tyler received a Purple Heart Medal and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
Since his separation from the Army in 2012, Tyler has continued to struggle. He deals with a daily and constant slew of emotions and overwhelming anxiety. Tyler’s struggles keep him from being able to fully participate and be present with and for his young family. His family is his anchor. He wants nothing more than to be there for them.
In hopes of finding hope and healing, Tyler is participating with VETERANS ON THE CAMINO this spring and will walk the ancient 500-mile journey alongside the founder, Brad Genereux. His goal is to come to terms with his time in the service and to find inner peace to once again live life to the fullest.
This is a brief explanation of why I am passionate about Veterans on the Camino – what drove me to create this project and why.
Thanks for getting the word out and the terrific response! This journey is right around the corner so we have to move quickly to be prepared. That being said, I need all applications submitted prior to 6 pm EST, Sunday 26 Feb to be considered by the board of directors.
Stay in touch as there will be a fall Camino right around the corner.
I am looking for Veterans to participate in Walking the Camino de Santiago this spring. Dates aren’t set as of yet but plan on a mid to late April start and a duration of about 35 days. If you are a Veteran who is struggling or you feel like you are ready to take this life changing journey – send me an email for more information. I will provide your backpack and boots, travel, and daily per diem. All you need to provide is the time and the motivation to take this ancient journey… Ultreia et Suseia!
My deployment to Ghazni, Afghanistan in 2008 – 2009 changed me in profound ways. Ask any Veteran who has served in combat and they will agree that it was both the best of times and the very worst of times. The bond that develops between soldiers while in the crucible of combat is unlike anything else. The tragic gap in serving our country is the return from the warzone, the donning of civilian clothes, the disconnect. My story is like many others, most of the Veterans are silent about the struggles but make no mistake, its there and its real.
By the time I embarked on the Camino de Santiago I was at an all time low. I simply didn’t fit in anywhere. I only bothered with a one way ticket.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the Camino is a special place. Its not just a hike, it is much more than that. It has a rich history dating back over 1000 years. The worlds first travel guide is written about it, the CODEX CALIXTINUS. There is something extraordinary about this journey. It isn’t a vacation. It is very difficult. The body aches but for me, that was the easiest part to overcome. It was the inner journey, the reconnection with people and faith in humanity. The kind acts I witnessed over and over. The breaking down of my walls and barriers.
I knew I had to share my story. And then I realized that this is my mission – to not only tell my tale but to help other Veterans make this life changing journey.
My 11th and final deployment of my US Naval career was to war torn Afghanistan. This nine-month tour drastically changed my life as the crushing strain of constantly being in harm’s way took its toll. Thereafter I retired with over 22 years of service, but failed miserably at becoming a civilian. I was in a dark place and suffering many long, sleepless nights reliving hellish nightmares. I was on a downward spiral and getting worse each day. Until I discovered the Camino de Santiago. I threw caution to the wind and embarked on this ancient pilgrimage and personal journey. I have no doubt that it saved my life.
It is now my mission to guide other suffering Veterans on this journey, this path of healing. The Camino allows the time and space to look deep inside oneself. Through this introspection, one begins to come to terms with what is buried within. In an effort to explain this healing journey to others, I shared my story in A Soldier to Santiago.
In A Soldier to Santiago, I recount my final deployment to Afghanistan, delving into personal thoughts and feelings and reliving that downward spiral. However, it also alternates that darkness with an account of my first Camino pilgrimage, illustrating the healing power of the Camino. My hope is that, by reading this personal account, you will understand why this transformational journey can help many other Veterans who suffer the same long, dark nights that I suffered.
A Soldier to Santiago is now available on Amazon.com. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to Veterans On The Camino to continue furthering this cause. Click on the link below to order a copy. Please share your thoughts in a review on Amazon.com as well.