A pair of father-and-son U.S. Army veterans is kayaking down the entire Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico for a good cause.
Jeff and Logan Hastings started their journey on May 1 at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. They've said they're hoping to call attention to veteran’s issues including suicide and PTSD.
“We’re trying to bring awareness through this trip. [For three months] we’re trying to put our feet in their shoes,” Logan Hastings said noting the difficulties of the voyage.
Jeff joined the U.S. Army in 2009 and served as a chaplain in Iraq and Kuwait from 2010 to 2011. Logan enlisted in the Army in 2007 and completed two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered after an explosion in Afghanistan.
After returning stateside, Logan says he had a lot of problems mentally and physically. He refused to take prescribed medicine and decided to “self-medicate” with alcohol.
Logan emphasized that many veterans who often need help never reach out for it.
“Every soldier that gets out has a different scenario. Just because they don’t have some physical attribute that’s wrong or they don’t walk with a limp or something doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting,” Logan told Fox News along the banks of the Mississippi River. “There are plenty of things going on in their minds, their hearts. Some of them don’t know how to get the help, others know how and they can’t get it.”
Logan says he originally came up with the idea to kayak down the Mississippi River as a fun trip with a friend. The idea then turned into a fundraiser. His friend wasn’t able to go on the trip so his father jumped at the opportunity. Jeff says he noticed a change in himself after being deployed and suffered from depression and PTSD.
“He said, Dad, we’ve got to do something to wake up our country,” Jeff told Fox News. “He said he wanted to kayak the entire length of the Mississippi [River] to suffer myself because my buddies are suffering.”
The nearly three-month journey can be treacherous at times with the threat of rough weather and high temperatures. Both men have lost weight and Jeff passed out while on the river at one point. They start early each day to avoid the extreme heat.
This is the first time either of the men has taken on a major kayaking trip of this magnitude. Each night they set up camp on the banks of the river and share photos on their Facebook page along the way. Jeff and his wife founded the Warrior 180 Foundation to assist veterans. All donations in support of the trip go towards to the organization.
“We provide crisis intervention for families of veterans, for veterans in the military,” Hastings said. “If veterans find themselves, or their families in a crisis, marriage trouble, drugs or alcoholism, depression, PTSD, thoughts of suicide. We come in either on the phone or if we can be there we travel there.”
Both men are able to talk and share things they never spoke about including the struggles they both faced after being deployed. Although they’ve gotten to know each other better their focus remains clear.
“People have the freedoms they do today because of the sacrifice of these veterans and we need to give back to them. I’m not saying that because I am a veteran. That’s the reason I’m doing this,” Logan said.
As of July 17, the men have just fewer than 300 more miles to go before they reach the Gulf of Mexico. You can follow along with their journey by visiting their Facebook page.
Willie James Inman is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames