Mississippi Army National Guard veteran, former Sergeant Christopher Cambre is walking from his residence in Bay St. Louis, Miss. to the US/Canadian border at International Falls, Minnesota with a mission he named “Straight Up America” on May 1, 2021. (Brian Lamar/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor

Chris Cambre laced up his combat boots, put on his patrol cap and swung his heavy rucksack over his shoulder as he said goodbye to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the next few months.

Cambre, an Army National Guard veteran began his journey of more than 1,450 miles from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the Canadian border at International Falls, Minnesota.

The proposed route coined “Straight Up America” was originally planned to take 70 days. According to Cambre, his initial time estimate was based on an average of 22 miles per day, but as he barreled into his second day, he realized that 15 miles each day was more of a likely figure.

“I am going to have to adjust my numbers. My pack is heavier than expected. I might find a way to lighten my load a bit, but until I do, I won’t be able to make it as far as I originally planned,” said Cambre.

Cambre got the inspiration to begin his journey from another challenge he saw on Facebook in March. “There was another challenge for people to do 100 miles to raise awareness,” he said.

On day three, Cambre posted a video from Poplarville, Miss. explaining how sore he was and how he was looking forward to his body adjusting to the daily routine.

So far, Cambre has been enjoying the support. On his second day, he was greeted by roadside spectators who had signs of support and one person handed him a solar charger for his phone. According to Cambre, the support is welcome, but he is wary of people focusing on him.

“This whole mission is nothing if people don’t learn how to recognize the warning signs and learn how to communicate with veterans who are struggling or hurting. This isn’t about me. It is about awareness and education for our veterans,” Cambre said.

Cambre planned this journey because he realized how ill-equipped the people around him were when he returned from his assignments as a Soldier. He recognized how his behavior scared and pushed some loved ones away.

“I pushed people away because I didn’t know how to deal with the day-to-day issues. Relationships are hard, then when you put additional stresses on them like PTSD symptoms, it is hard to cope,” said Cambre.

So far, Cambre is planning to camp or lodge with VFWs. Although he welcomes support from followers, he is mostly hoping that this journey sparks a national conversation about suicide amongst veterans.

Worldwide statistics claim that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Cambre highlights this on his website vsafe22.com, but doesn’t just want people to know that veterans are killing themselves at alarming rates, he wants to take it further by ensuring that there is a public forum on how to spot signs of suicide ideations.