Jeremy Miller of Boise, Idaho visited the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Wednesday night, where local first responders enjoyed food and fellowship with Miller on his walk across the country. Pictured (l-r) are Tommy Kirker, Cameron Clouser, Jeremy Miller, Mike Mider, Alex Snaith and Captain Matt Miller. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Jeremy Miller of Boise, Idaho visited the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Wednesday night, where local first responders enjoyed food and fellowship with Miller on his walk across the country. Pictured (l-r) are Tommy Kirker, Cameron Clouser, Jeremy Miller, Mike Mider, Alex Snaith and Captain Matt Miller. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
In a journey that’s taken six months and over 2,000 miles and counting, an Idaho man raising awareness for veteran suicide reached Highland County Wednesday as one of his stops in his walk across the United States.

Jeremy Miller of Boise, Idaho served in the U.S. Army from 2007-2015 and was deployed to Iraq “all of 2011,” he said. Since then, he has lost several of his veteran friends to suicide, and Miller — who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression — contemplated suicide earlier this year.



“We didn’t lose anybody over there [in Iraq], but once we got back, we lost four guys in three years,” Miller said. “Then, a month before I started this journey — around April 15 — I tried to take my own life. That’s when I decided I needed to do something different and try to get my stuff together.

“I have a 4-year-old son, and he needs a dad.”

Since April, Miller said that he “got off prescriptions” and decided within a month to begin walking across the United States.

“About two weeks after I tried to commit suicide, I thought of the idea of doing it, walking across the United States, and so I said, ‘All right, I’ll talk myself out of it if I don’t hurry up and just do it,’ so two weeks later I was on a bus headed out.

“Ultimately, it was just me needing to save myself and wanting to help out as many others at the same time. That’s what got me motivated to do it.”

Miller began walking across the country May 22, leaving from in Crescent City, Calif. after taking a bus ride from Boise to California. To help others along the way, Miller shares a message of embracing what makes you happy. Part of the impetus for his cross-country journey is to focus on what makes him happiest, which is “nature and the outdoors.”

“I had to find my happiness, and I try to tell everyone else, ‘Find your happiness and continue to do it,” he said. “The other thing is vulnerability, being able to reach out for help. There’s no problem asking for help. That’s what I try to stress to people.

“There’s that stigma of ‘you’re a lesser person’ if you show emotions and ask for help. That is obviously not true at all. It takes a bigger man to ask for help.”

Although Miller said he isn’t looking for recognition for himself, he recognizes that a grand gesture can sometimes garner more attention. The goal is that his unique circumstance of walking across the country will help more people recognize the epidemic of veteran suicide.

“Everybody likes that new big and shiny thing, something extreme,” Miller said. “I figured walking across the United States would catch the most eyes. I’m not looking for attention by any means, but in order to get people intrigued in something, it’s got to be something more than just a Facebook page.”

Crescent City, Calif. is over 2,500 miles from Hillsboro, and along the way Miller said he’s had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, nearly all of whom have been happy to help him on short notice as he stops in their respective communities.

In Highland County, the Mowrystown American Legion Roy W. Wilson Post 0694 is paying for Miller’s hotel Wednesday night and breakfast Thursday morning, while the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District’s firefighters made dinner to share with Miller at their Hillsboro station Wednesday night.

Also during his stay, VFW Post 9094 in Hillsboro will host a meet and greet with Miller Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. The community is invited to attend.

The local response is typical, as Miller said that in most of the areas he’s visited, “first responders have helped a lot, whether it’s me staying at a firehouse or police taking me through or escorting me into town or out of town to make sure I’m safe.”

Along with first responders, veterans’ organizations have also shown him a lot of support over the past six months. In fact, one VFW in O’Fallon, Ill. awarded him a lifetime membership, he said.

However, Miller has had different opportunities to speak to members of the community, not just veterans, along the way — including speaking to individuals of all ages, in both small and large settings.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have the support I’ve gotten,” Miller said. “Some towns, it turns into something huge. Some towns, it’s stopping by the VFW to talk to a couple people.”

While in Manhattan, Kan., Miller had the opportunity to reach thousands of individuals during Praise Fest, which he described as a “Christian music festival.” Miller has also spoken with elementary school as well as college students and said he enjoys visiting younger students, stressing the importance of reaching these children with education about mental health at young age.

“I think that if you can have a great impression on them and point them in the right direction at a young age, they’ll continue that,” he said. “If you can break that stigma immediately with them, they’ll always be willing to reach out for help if they need it because they know it’s OK.”

On the other hand, one of Miller’s favorite experiences so far has been speaking to elderly veterans at a veterans home.

“I sat down for hours and talked to a group of different veterans and heard their stories,” Miller said. “One of the guys drove the first ship that came in to port from World War II. In the same room was a guy who was a five-time Purple Heart recipient.”

Although he is currently raising awareness for veteran suicide, Miller is also raising money to fund his trip and his plans for his Walk Across America organization. Miller’s goal is to start a nonprofit to help individuals get the mental health treatment they need and — as he says on Facebook — to “get to those people before it’s too late.” The nonprofit would focus on funding “mental illness treatments for people that can’t afford them or can’t get benefits through the VA,” including veterans, first responders and their families, he said.

To do so, Miller plans to continue to take a hands-on approach nationwide. Once he completes his journey across the United States, Miller has an even loftier goal in mind to raise awareness for mental health needs.

“I want to hold an event in every single town in American before I die,” he said. “That’s my overall goal.

“Walking across America, everyone’s like ‘Oh, I could never do that.’ Well, I was the same way, and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’ Now here I am 450 miles or so away from my end, and it’s just been phenomenal. I feel like being able to reach out to all of America in person goes a lot further than just offering support through a Facebook page or a website.”

By putting a face to the cause, Miller has made connections already, which has brought unexpected blessings. He said that he received the largest contribution to his nonprofit thus far in Clermont County, Ohio, where he received two checks. That outpouring of support was a complete surprise to him.

While he was in Clermont County, Diane England, the owner of Everything Bagels in Batavia, hosted a meet and greet with Miller Saturday, Nov. 9. She called Miller Tuesday night and invited him back to her store.

“She was very adamant about having me come back this morning,” Miller said Wednesday. “She gave me a $1,000 check, and another guy gave me a $2,000 check to donate to my cause.

“She called and said, ‘Hey, will you please come? I’d like to see you again before you leave.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’ and then something like that happens. It was crazy. Those were my biggest donations yet. I’m trying to start my nonprofit, so getting donations like that is really going to help get my nonprofit off the ground.”

Anyone else wishing to donate in support of Miller’s efforts can contribute to his GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/f/walk-across-america-for-veteran-suicide-awareness.

Supporters can also follow Miller’s journey on his Facebook page at http://facebook.com/walkacrossamerica22, where he said he reads every message and responds personally to individuals.

That personal attention to individuals is one of the things that Miller said has helped him the most in the past six months, as he said he’s discovered a newfound “faith in humanity.”

“Being able to stop and literally talk to people all the way across the United States has just helped me. It’s saved my life for sure,” Miller said of his mission. “Several people have reached out to me saying that it’s motivated them to stay alive and try something different with their life.

“It has restored my faith in humanity, being able to meet people in every town, from every walk of life. Slowing down and taking the time to talk to somebody, you see there’s a lot of good in this world.”

(Editor’s note: Any veterans or service members in crisis, or their family members and friends, may call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255, to speak to a VA responder, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.)