Joseph Mullin, a disabled military veteran, will spend the next year kayaking from Maine to Texas to raise awareness of veteran suicide. Mullin, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., who lives in Massachusetts, is a disabled navy veteran suffering from PTSD. He served as a jet mechanic and on an anti-submarine helicopter squadron from 1970 to 1974.
During his service, Mullin was stationed in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts where he learned to scuba dive. With this new skill, and his passion for anything related to the water, he was recruited to be a part of an underwater recovery team. Mullins spent 20 years finding and recovering such things as vehicles, evidence, and even remains.
This experience weighed heavily on him. Mullin said he knows what so many other enlisted men and women and veterans struggle with on a daily basis and the impact that it can have on one’s life. “There is an unbreakable bond between veterans, and we understand what one another is going through. It is so apparent that veterans are the first to come lend aid to their brothers and sisters in arms. I saw that certain people were not getting the help they needed and were continuing to suffer everyday, being afraid to ask for help. I found that it was my duty to do whatever I could to create a positive conversation among veterans who were going through things,” said Mullin, while working on his kayak.
Mullin became an ambassador for Mission 22, a nonprofit organization founded by three veterans, whose goal is to eliminate the symptoms of trauma by addressing the underlying physiological and psychological imbalances. “It was time for me to accept the calling to step up and help out, now being at the age of retirement. We all know someone who has been involved in the military, and we may or may not be aware of struggles they internalize to try to continue with their daily activities. I don’t want someone to have to hide their feelings or emotions. There is always someone who is going to lend a hand,” he said.
A few years ago, Mullin knew that he wanted to do something, not to draw attention to himself but to shed light on Mission 22, other veteran organizations and the struggles of many veterans. He trained for two years to learn kayaking, sea conditions he would be facing, hazards and how to properly prepare for the trip.
Mullin took his first shot at the journey April 30, 2017; but due to many trials, he was unable to continue after a few states. Undeterred, on May 5, Mullin launched from Rhode Island on his journey to make it to his finishing point in Houston, Texas. Carrying the bare minimum in supplies and traveling solo, Mullin paddles anywhere from six to 10 hours a day or 30 to 60 miles in his fiberglass kayak.
Mullin recently crossed Delaware Bay and set up camp at Cape Henlopen State Park. “This is not about me, it’s about the mission,” Mullin said. “What I am doing is secondary to the sacrifice that veterans have made. I want people to know that is OK to ask for help; it takes a much stronger person to ask for help than to keep on the path they are on. In the armed forces, we would always say, ‘I got your 6’, which would mean I have your back and support you. That message still rings true today.”
Mullin said many people call him a hero, but he does not agree. “I am simply following my heart for the sake of all of those out there who are suffering. The thanks that I will receive is seeing the recovery of those who may be down on their luck or contemplating suicidal thoughts. To see them shine and help them find their purpose in life again is more than I could ever imagine,” said Mullin.
Mullin plans to be on the water, making various stops along the coast for about a year before landing in Houston. He also plans to write a book about his journey, donating 22 percent of the proceeds to Mission 22. For information on Mission 22, go to: www.mission22.com/. For updates on Mullin’s trip, follow his journey’s blog at: acske2017.org/.