As the United States entered its thirteenth year of war, the consequences were becoming increasingly apparent to anyone who paid attention. Local news featured reoccurring stories of veteran suicide, the VA system was dogged daily by negative press and our sons and daughters were being asked to deploy at an accelerated rate that was unlike any other time in our Nation’s history. It seemed that prolonged conflict was having a numbing effect. Meanwhile in Atlanta, GA at the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center, lives were being saved and generations were being positively affected through innovative therapy and treatment. Men and women who had exhausted all hope were being transformed by the work being done at SHARE and the outcomes were nothing short of miraculous. The SHARE Military Initiative at The Shepherd Center was saving our heroes and SHARE’s work inspired a group of dedicated and committed patriots to draw a line in the sand and commit themselves to something much bigger than themselves. These dutiful Americans, who would call themselves the Shepherd’s Men, would commit themselves to advocating the mission of SHARE while raising funds to ensure the program’s ability to set the standard as it relates to treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury for veterans of post-9/11 wars. In Atlanta, GA, HOPE was flourishing.
Shepherd’s Men increased their team member count to 14, including the addition of a graduate (“client”) of the SHARE Military Initiative. New member, Jarrad Turner, a retired U.S. Army medic and graduate of the SHARE Military Initiative, joined the team as they ran from the World Trade Center site in New York to Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Their goal was $250k and they raised $280k, all while wearing 22 lb. flak vests (representing the 22 veteran suicides each day).
Shepherd’s Men, joined by new member, U.S. Army veteran and SHARE Graduate James Peterson, ran from Boston, MA to Shepherd Center. Each of the members ran 22 kilometers per day also wearing 22 lb. flak vests and raised just shy of $1 million.
On May 22, 2017, Shepherd’s Men began their fourth annual campaign through eight cities, starting at the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, PA. To pay tribute to the heroes who gave their lives on that flight, each of the members wore 71-pound packs over their 22-pound vests for a total of 93 pounds on the first leg of the run. In each city thereafter, two team members rotated carrying that honor until they returned home to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia on May 29. The Shepherd’s Men raised in excess of $1 million in 2017 to cover the current operating budget of $1.2 million and increase the number of clients who can be served each year.