WNY Veteran to ride 422 miles in wheelchair for veteran suicide awareness

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A journey starts with a single step. In Joshua’s case, it starts with wheels.

“The last few years I’ve been having to use it more and more as my condition gets worse and worse,” said Joshua Geartz of North Tonawanda.

Joshua Geartz received an honorable discharge after serving in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer from 1999 to 2004. In 2003 he was hit by an improvised explosive device that left with him several injuries, including traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.

“It started with the isolation, the medication, with the medication came the drinking, with more isolation and you just get into that downward spiral and it’s really hard to get out of,” said Geartz.

Geartz struggled with thoughts of suicide. According to the VA, an average of 20 veterans die from suicide each day.

“I previously attempted suicide and I was getting ready to do it again and I found an amazing organization Songwriting with Soldiers and attending that retreat stopped me from doing it,” said Geartz.

Songwriting with Soldiers pairs award-winning songwriters with veterans to write songs about their experiences and returning home. Geartz says the 3-day retreat saved his life.

“I’d love to be able to pay for an entire retreat for other soldiers,” said Geartz.

Geartz plans to ride his wheelchair 422 miles from Angola, Indiana to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to raise money and awareness for veteran suicide.

“Maybe it just gives one person the ability to speak out and it helps them,” said Geartz.

Geartz will drive down to Indiana this Saturday where he will begin his 422 mile journey in his wheelchair. He hopes to complete the trip within 30 days.

If you’d like to support Geartz or donate to the programs he is raising money for, go to the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/422FOR22/

http://www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/

https://www.teamrwb.org/

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