An Army veteran is coming to Arizona for a 100-mile hike this week to raise awareness about suicide among veterans.
Joshua Emer suffered a spinal cord injury while on active duty in the Army in 2015 and then dealt with complications from the surgery. Emer told ABC15 he dealt not just with physical injuries, but mental ones as well.
"From the time I entered the hospital to a couple months after, it was five total friends that took their lives," Emer said.
Emer told ABC15 he had been on deployments in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Emer said he eventually found help and spent time at a treatment center. He eventually took part in a 100-mile hike in Colorado last year with other veterans, which gave him a boost.
"Going through something brutal with your brothers makes it a lot easier, makes it more memorable," he said. "Creates a tighter bond."
Emer said he received a huge outpouring of support. He had planned to do a 100-mile hike in January, but his wife died in a car crash late last year, pushing the hike back to June.
"It was an adjustment for my kids I think seeing me go from in-uniform and always being the strong one, never showing emotion, kind of being a tough guy, to my 6-year-old consoling me," Emer said.
The 100-mile hike in Arizona starts on Wednesday, June 2, lasts five days, and ends at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix.
Emer hopes the hike helps others with their mental health.
"I'm not looking for, like, 15 more Veterans to come walk 100 miles with us," he said. "I'm hoping some [veterans] just come along and walk with us, whether it's a mile or an hour, they want to share their story, they need a hug, or anything. I'd love to have any veterans that are along the route come and walk with us."
Emer is using the hike to help raise funds that will help provide resources for other Veterans in need.
During his own journey, Emer has received help and support from Semper Fi & America’s Fund. The proceeds from the 100-mile hike will go to The Fund, which helps wounded and critically ill members of the military.
Are you looking for help? The Survivors of War crisis hotline is available 24/7 and their phone number is 480-442-6273.