The story behind Veteran Voyage 360
One Veteran – One Mission
Veteran Voyage 360 represents the longest journey a soldier takes as he or she separates from the military after service in combat, and transitions into civilian life. Regardless of the length of service, whether 4 years or 24 years, returning to normal life can be a difficult struggle, and especially for those suffering from the physical and psychological wounds of war. The past 14 years of sustained combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken its toll on this all volunteer Army, and the biggest indicator of this is the historically high suicide rate throughout the services. The number of soldiers and veterans taking their own lives now accounts for more than 10 times the number of casualties overseas.
The underlying story behind this venture lies in SFC (R) Josh Collins’ personal struggle with TBI and PTSD. He is a Special Operations combat Veteran with multiple rotations to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, along with numerous other deployments around the globe in support of the War on Terror. Moreover, Josh is a Wounded Warrior with 4 documented Traumatic Brain Injuries with loss of consciousness from explosive blast, 2 by parachute landing falls, and 1 more from combatives training. After he retired out of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta Force in December of 2008, Josh continued to support the military as a contractor both stateside and abroad. But it was while leading a training exercise in 2013 that he sustained a final major concussion, and complete with fractured nose, rib, and cervical spine compressions that dropped him over the edge. Driving on with the Doctor’s prescribed medications, but also self-medicating with alcohol, he reached the limits of his ability to function. He was finally hospitalized for over 3 months in the James A Haley VA Polytrauma Unit in Tampa, Florida for sustained TBI therapy, and was subsequently medically retired again as a civilian. Not one to quit, this series of events, saving his life, marriage, and family has rekindled a new fire. After the hospitalization, his wife Tonia purchased him a Stand-up paddleboard for recreational therapy to assist in the prolonged recovery. It was on the water again that Josh found a sanctuary. Severe vestibular (inner ear) damage, nerve damage and palsy in his right eye, and cervical spine compression now fused, left him continuously off balance on dry ground, but the rolling surf calmed all this and in his words, “Everything holds still when I’m on the water.” Having nearly lost it all, he is now determined to make a difference in helping other Veterans navigate these perilous waters of life after combat; Veteran Voyage 360.
The mission is to complete a first ever nonstop, unassisted, manpowered voyage by small vessel around the world (over 24,000 nautical miles) in under 18 months. The purpose of this operation is to significantly increase awareness and resourcing for veteran brain related injury and illness treatment and recovery. Josh’s vision is simple, to accomplish a record setting voyage that is both dangerous and epic as a demonstration of resolve and sacrifice in support of the 24 million plus veterans of this nation. Moreover, to put a stop/loss on the 22 Veteran-a-day suicide statistic that currently plagues the nation as a result of these wounds. This voyage represents the long journey a soldier or sailor takes when separating or retiring from the military. It is often difficult, sometimes arduous, and most certainly something that feels very lonely and taking years to complete. For Josh personally, this voyage is the ultimate triumph over “disability”, the diagnoses, the meds, the alcohol, the pain, and the loss. This is his way of grieving, and to support those who may have even more to grieve. The end state is a successful first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by a small man powered boat, and $22 million raised during the 18 month long voyage for the Task Force Dagger Foundation initiatives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing immediate assistance to wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers and their families, and the families of casualties from the United States Army Special Operations Command.