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Retired marine hopes new mission will raise awareness on veteran suicide

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OSHKOSH (WBAY)A retired marine is putting his efforts into a new kind of mission, with some help from his canine companion.

"Jarhead's Journey, I mean, it's just my mission,” said Tristan Retzlaff

Retzlaff will soon leave Oshkosh to travel the entire Appalachian Trail with his service dog Zoey.

But the more than 2,000-mile hike isn't just a simple trip for the retired marine.

"It's a charity that's being set up with a mission and focus of trying to help be another voice for the epidemic that is veteran suicide right now,” said Retzlaff. “On average there's still 22 veterans a day committing suicide."

Retzlaff knows firsthand the difficulties many veterans face.

"My struggles I've had with my mental health and also my physical health, I know how hard it is,” said Retzlaff.

But "A Jarhead's Journey" is also about showcasing the thing that's helped him heal: Zoey.

"Sometimes I could barely get out of bad because it's so bad,” said Retzlaff. “She's done so many things for me and it's done so much for my life to make things better."

He hopes the trip will also raise money for Healing4Heroes, the non-profit that connects veterans like him to dogs like Zoey.

"I felt like I needed to do something, and I just felt like with what Zoey did for me, I want to help other veterans get that,” said Retzlaff. "No veteran is going to be cured but they can live a better, hopefully fuller life than maybe they've been living. And I think through service dogs they can have that."

Retzlaff and Zoey are heading to Tennessee soon to start training, and plan to begin their journey in February. He's gotten some sponsorships, but they will need more gear and supplies for his journey to be a success.

"If I can even get one veteran connected with a service dog and it helps change his life, that means everything to me,” said Retzlaff.

To find out how you can help, visit the “A Jarhead’s Journey” website or Facebook page.

Chase McNamara

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