'Walking' event puts focus on veterans

Film, discussion planned to spotlight the wounded

The next in a series of six Humanity Walking events will highlight the challenges and triumphs of wounded veterans, organizers say.

A free screening of the documentary "Warrior Champions" will kick off the three-hour event on Wednesday, July 17, which is being held at the veterans facility in White City, said Michele Morales, addictions manager for Jackson County Health and Human Services.

For more information

For more information about the Humanity Walking events or to volunteer, call Michele Morales at 541-774-7807.

The documentary, which has been shown in several film festivals, is about four Iraqi veterans who lost limbs in service and went on to compete in the Beijing Paralympics, Morales said.

"It's an inspiring story of resilience for veterans, individuals with disabilities and anyone who has struggled against all odds to pursue their dreams," Morales said.

The film will be shown at 4 p.m., followed by a light dinner and a discussion led by Ben Bryan and Chris Petrone of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics.

After the discussion, walkers will take to a wheelchair-accessible, 1.2-mile path that circles the Veterans Affairs campus and includes its labyrinth, Morales said.

Funded by a $7,500 grant from the Oregon Humanities Foundation and co-sponsored by United Way of Jackson County, the walks are intended to expose different sectors of the community to ideas and provide a format to engage those ideas, all the while participating in healthful activities, said Dee Anne Everson, director of United Way of Jackson County.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a new generation of returning soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, amputees and women who have served in active combat, Everson said.

"As a community of service providers, we're learning as fast as we can" how to best provide support to those returning from service, she said.

Bryan, a suicide-prevention coordinator at SORCC, said approximately 400 men and women are in the facility's residential treatment program, where veterans and their families receive care.

The July 17 walk will offer veterans, their friends, family members and the community at large a chance to learn about issues facing local people and communities, while sharing the benefits of exercise.

"Walking — and exercise — is restorative and grounding," Bryan said, adding he hopes the film will raise "awareness that physical exercise can promote mental health."

This is the fourth of a half-dozen walks designed to give Rogue Valley residents a chance to explore the place of walking in culture, religion, sociology and literature. Each event is free and open to all ages, Morales said.

The first walk in the series, held in April at Rogue Valley Mall, was a "Walk for Health" that was specifically designed for seniors.

The second event was an education-based trek in May that began at a Medford elementary school and ended up at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center.

A "Walk of Faith" occurred in June, where walkers wound their way from a Buddhist temple to a Christian church and a Jewish synagogue as religious leaders talked about the place of walking in faith traditions, Morales said.

In August, White City will host its second "Humanity Walking" event. The "Walk for Opportunity" will cover the issue of immigration, Morales said, adding youths from the LIFE Art program will set up stations to tell stories of historical, familial and personal immigration experiences through their art, poetry, photography and readings.

The sixth and final walk in the series will be September's "Walk for Recovery," which will take place in Medford, Morales said.

The event will be part of National Recovery Month. New York writer Joshua Ferris will read from his novel, "The Unnamed," which details the story of a man with an addiction to walking.

The walk will pass by the agencies that touch the lives of individuals seeking recovery — including the courts, child welfare, treatment centers and churches that host meetings, Morales said.

Studies show amazing dialogs occur when people walk "side by side," Everson said.

"We can effect change when we walk together and talk together," she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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