MONROE, NC (WBTV) - A veteran from Monroe, retired Sergeant First Class Howard Garren, says just a few months ago, he couldn’t get up to walk because of debilitating seizures.
On Saturday, he returned from a walk of over 600 miles.
His path took him through the middle of the tornadoes that hit Alabama, through storms, blisters and cold.
So why and how did he end up walking all that way?
No, not to raise money. Garren says he self financed the walk and did not accept any donations.
Because of a phone call. One he says that saved him, and that he wants you to make.
“It was just horrendous, I mean I couldn’t get up and walk, it would just put you on the ground,” said Garren.
Two-year Army veteran Howard Garren says seizures were debilitating for him and they started to take over more than just his physical body.
“There’s a lot of veterans who commit suicide, there’s some in this hometown, ones I’ve served with, my own brother committed suicide 21 years ago,” said Garren. “I was almost one of those guys.”
Then he says one phone call from a friend saved him.
That friend checking in to see how he was doing meant the world, then he went on to look into more ways to treat his seizures.
When he found medical relief for his seizures in Alabama, he immediately wanted to do something to raise awareness for other veterans who may be struggling.
“I figured I’ve been blessed, I’m [going to] share it. So I started to walk this way,” said Garren.
Garren’s journey took him over 600 miles through numerous states but he knew he wanted it all to end in his hometown - in downtown Monroe.
“I’m proud to know him and be associated with him and to know he has spread the word from the gulf of Alabama all the way to Monroe is just amazing,” said Sergeant Major Jeff Leonard, who served with Garren as supply sergeants from 1997-2003.
Garren says the whole 607-mile journey was challenging, like when he was in Alabama when the tornadoes hit.
“I was in Dothan when the tornadoes hit,” said Garren. “I had to walk through the damaged areas to get home. It was amazing how bad and destructive that was.”
Garren says when he was alone in pouring rain, in breaking boots with blisters. Just the fact that he could walk, and might inspire others to keep fighting, kept him going.
“I don’t want any donations, this is completely self-financed, I’ve asked everyone, make a phone call to a veteran. You don’t know what point they are at in their life but that one phone call could save them,” said Garren. “If what I’ve done has saved one person it’s worth it.”
Garren is now back in Monroe and he says he is taking a rest from walking for a while, but is still working to raise awareness for men and women in the community who have served our country.