Carter County resident Treva Cheek plans on going for a walk Saturday. Not just any walk. A walk full of meaning. A walk that fills a heart with heartache and hope all at the same time. A walk to remember lives lost and hope for lives not taken in combat overseas.
Trek for Troops kicks off today and will end Sunday, during which individuals across the nation are invited to participate in a walk to support a special cause for combat veterans. Cheek said she will be walking with friends early Saturday morning starting in Springer and ending at the Shops At Ardmore, 1211 N Commerce St., and staying for a Military Appreciation event.
The walk was designed to raise money to construct Darkhorse Lodge, a retreat located in Tennessee specifically for combat veterans anywhere in America.
“There’s a lot of retreats for veterans, but they’re just geared for veterans, period. If you’re a combat veteran, it’s just different,” Cheek said. “They want a place where they can speak openly without guarding themselves.”
The cause is dear to her heart as Cheek’s son is a veteran himself. Looking at group pictures of men he served with, Cheek said her son will look at the photo of men and tell her, “I’m the only one left out of here alive.”
“There were 25 of them killed in Afghanistan and since they’ve been home, five more took their life,” Cheek said of the military unit. “I think the national average is 22 veterans a day commit suicide because of PTSD.”
The lodge, which would be staffed by combat veterans, is designed to be a place a refuge and retreat for combat veterans. The idea came from Tennessee resident Gretchen Catherwood, whose son, Alec, was one of the 25 men in the same unit over in Afghanistan. He was 19 years old.
“These veterans, and thousands like them, have given us the things that we enjoy today; safety, security and the freedom to live in the greatest country in the world. The problem is, once they are out of the military, they are not given the help they need in order to thrive in the civilian world,” Catherwood said.
Catherwood and her husband decided to open the lodge to try to help the nation’s heroes by providing them a place where they can communicate with other combat veterans while enjoying a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. Everything will be provided at no cost to the guests, including lodging, meals and gear necessary for all activities.
Each room in the lodge will also be named after one of the 25 men lost from the Marine Corps 3/5, Darkhorse unit.
“If we all work together, perhaps the troubles these men and women are facing today will become a thing of the past and our country will be better and stronger because of it. If Alec had come home, my wish would be that someone, somewhere would have done this for him,” Catherwood said.
Those wanting to participate in Trek for Troops are asked to walk a total of 100 miles in as many states as possible. Mileage can be broken up between teams and individuals. Each participant is asked to get pledges ahead of time and collect once the walk is complete.
Cheek plans to walk a portion here in southern Oklahoma, just as her son plans to walk a portion in Colorado.
“I’m just trying to help raise awareness and get donations for a good cause,” Cheek said.
Those who would like to join Cheek on her Trek for Troops or ask questions can call her at (580) 229-6375. Plans for the Darkhorse Lodge can be viewed at www.darkhorselodge.org.