Matt, thank you for the interview and letting me share my thoughts. Check it out at:
As 2020 comes to a close, we are anxiously looking forward to planning, once again, our next Camino journey! Although the 2020 journey was not able to take place due to the COVID Pandemic, VOC has continued working toward its mission.
We are pleased to announce a new component to Veterans on the Camino…. Beginning with our next journey, which will hopefully be in Spring 2021, VOC will include a family member of a Veteran who is standing sentry on the other side. While VOC’s primary mission is to the Veterans who struggle with aspects of their service and transition to civilian life, we recognize that a Veteran’s experience affects not only the Veteran, but also those who love him/her. We want to offer an opportunity for these family members who have lost their soldier to find healing and peace through the Camino journey.
This will be a unique and enriching experience for both the family member and the Veteran participants. To be integrated with the Veterans, walking side by side, sharing meals, blisters, aches, rainy days, stories and, ultimately, the thrill of arriving at Finisterre will give them an insight into what life is like among the ranks. A view through the eyes of the soldier who has gone on before them.
The inspiration for this new program came from Duane. Each year I dedicate my Camino to a fallen Veteran – a Memorial Walk. In 2018 that Veteran was Casey, Duane’s son. Casey’s presence was felt on the 2018 journey, our group talked about him daily. Upon returning home, VOC presented Duane and his family with the Compostela, the shell, and the bracelet I wore with Casey’s name inscribed on it. Duane immediately put it on his own wrist and to this day has never removed it.
Several months ago, Duane expressed an interest in walking the Camino on his own. This sparked the idea. After discussion with the VOC board of directors, we asked Duane to be the first official family member participant. He readily accepted and is ready and eager to make this journey in the company of his son’s fellow warriors.
Because the group of veterans selected for 2020 were not able to travel, they will make up the 2021 participants… along with Duane. Looking ahead, if you or somebody you know is interested in applying for this new program, look for our next application announcement with details on how and what to submit for consideration.