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FORMER MARINE RONALD C.J. ZALESKI BEGINS WALK ON
|WHO: Ronald C.J. Zaleski, email@example.com age 55, of Flanders, NY, a former marine
(1970-72), and former owner of Peconic Health and Racquet in Flanders, NY
WHAT: An attempt to be the first person to walk the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail barefoot,
WHERE: The Appalachian Trail, beginning in Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia, covering 14 states and 2,174 miles
WHEN: Starting Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2006 until compeltion.
WHY: Having sold his fitness business, Ronald Zaleski is taking five and a half months off to walk the
Appalachian Trail barefoot to call attention to the need for a mandatory counseling and debriefing
program for returning troops. Counseling is available but it is not mandatory and often carries a
stigma. A mandatory program with extensive workshops would insure that all troops could have an
opportunity to heal. Many keep their experience to themselves and suffer silently.
News About Veterans Returning Home Today
(excerpt from “When Warriors Come Home” by Bob Herbert, The New York Times, May 4, 2006)
A report published in March in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than a third of the troops who served in Iraq sought help for mental health problems within a year of returning home. The high percentage is deceptive however. The report said it is likely that “there are still considerable barriers to care.” It referred to a prior study that showed that more than 60 percent of the Iraq veterans who screen positively for generalized anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder have not sought treatment.
About Ronald C.J. Zaleski
Being a marine during the Vietnam War was a life altering time for Ronald Zaleski. He was drafted in 1970 and was one of the fortunate ones -- stationed in the U.S. for two years. Yet with the loss of many of his friends during the war, his feelings of survivor guilt were profound and remain so today. After his release, he decided to offer a silent memorial to his buddies who were killed by talking an oath to walk barefoot. He has remained silent about this unusual oath for more than 33 years since he left the armed services. Last year, prompted by a child who asked why he was not wearing shoes, he decided that he could be silent no longer. While he could not help his buddies who died in the Vietnam War, he could at least help those troops returning home now. Pained by news reports of troubled vets with little or no debriefing and counseling opportunities and concerned that there is a stigma for men to ask for help, he is calling for mandatory emotional support for vets and offering suggestions for immediate solutions. He hopes that his barefoot walk along the Appalachian Trail will call attention to the plight of many vets who need counseling but are unable or unwilling to ask for it, and:
2. Provide two weeks mandatory Debriefing for all Military personel prior to disscharge (to give them tools to help them cope and deal with stress).
3. Make support groups available after discharge (so they have someone to talk to that can relate to what they have been through).
About the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,174-mile footpath along the ridge crests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. The trail traverses Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is used by day, weekend and other short-term hikers, section-hikers and thru-hikers. Thru-hikers hike the entire length of the Trail in one season.
|Monday, May 29th , 2006 Millenocket, Maine
We went to breakfast in Millenocket before going to the base of MT. Katahdin. I told the waitress why I wasn’t wearing shoes. She told me her husband had been re-activated after retiring from 20 yrs. of active duty in the airforce. He had just returned home and was done!!! She had prayed for him to come home every night and had cried many of night. She thanked me for what I was doing, Debbie from the Appalachian Grill.
We got to Baxter State Park at Noon. The gate person said I was too late to go up today. I’d have to wait till tomorrow. I decided to go anyway. Started up Katahdin Mt. @ 1pm on the Abol Trail. Reached the top and down the other side by 9pm (10 miles) too dark to continue.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Left for George around 5am (don’t have a watch) hiked 20 miles so I could meet Sue at Jo Mary’s junctionon Fri morning. This means 56 miles in 4 days. Finally saw a few hikers today, and a big pile of bear droppings!
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Did 19 miles today, saw a beaver and some moose droppings and hoof prints. It is beautiful with no signs of civilization most of the time.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
I think I have stumbled on a secret operation of someone raising mosquitos to take over the world! I have never seen so many for so long, walking through marshes. Saw a few red squirrels and lots of frogs. Got to my pick up point early, it rained most of the day, have some modifications to make on my rain gear.
Friday, June 2, 2006
Waited @ Jo Mary intersection for Sue to pick me up and take me back to NY, I needed to honor a commitment I made months before my trail trip. The first car or truck I heard was around 5am, I got up and sat @ the road. Stopped passer by’s (About 1 an hour) around 11am I realized something was wrong and she (Sue) must be somewhere else waiting for me. (The area we are trying to meet in is a 3.71 million acre reserve owned by 20 organizations, loggers, environmentalists) I started walking, met Evret coming from the other direction who told me I was headed the wrong way so he gave me a ride. I told him why I was walking , I got emotional, so did he. He said “I am just like you” (he is 80 yrs old) He went out of his way to help me find Sue. He said he never went to war, but he knew that if he had been and saw buddies die and other horrors of war he wouldn’t be the same. He wished me luck, handed me over to Jim who brought me to Sue. We gave one another the Polish greeting- Shoulders up hands out… Where were you? Headed back to N.Y.
I had given my word to Robin Lynn that I would see her and go to a leadership weekend @ Momentum 2 weeks before I went to Oregon to visit Willie & Neil Walsh with Conversations With God. I am going where my love is and I love what they are doing as well as what Robin is doing. Love is more than lip service, it doesn’t wait for the beloved to come to them. We didn’t make it to the ferry on time, stayed in Groton CT.
Saturday, June 3, 2006
We left first thing in the morning arrived at retreat center on Shelter Island.