POMEROY — “I probably looked a bit dilapidated at that point,” said the U.S. Navy veteran as he carried his 61 pound pack into Pomeroy after three months on the trail.
David Dibble left the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on June 8 and is walking across the country to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A complicated physical and mental condition that develops in response to traumatic events, PTSD can involve reliving the experience, sleep disorders, mood volatility, and many other negative psychological symptoms. It has been noted for its high prevalence in returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Dibble has delivered talks at Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts along his path, and given interviews when social media attention started to pick up.
He says fellow veterans and their family members often stop to exchange thoughts or chat as he walks from town to town.
“I don’t have to say much. They know what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s not what I can say that is really important, it’s listening.
“It’s a difficult subject to open up on,” he continued. “The number of young vets coming home (from Iraq and Afghanistan) has surpassed Vietnam, and 30 percent of Vietnam vets have PTSD.”
While the number of diagnosed Vietnam veterans hovers in the aforementioned range, the lifetime incidence of PTSD symptoms in that group reaches 80 percent.
Current U.S. military rates are around 20 percent diagnosed, but Vietnam-era veteran diagnoses increased over time.
“After 10 years, then sometimes the symptoms hit. The tide is coming in,” Dibble said.
Dibble spoke highly of Pomeroy’s hospitality. After three months on the road, his Pomeroy stop was intended more for recovery than publicity.
“The veterans organizations don’t know I’m here, but the citizens have been so amazingly helpful,” he said.
When he entered town late last week, he said the offers of supplies and response from passersby was overwhelming.
Brenda Roush, of the Meigs Economic Development Office, encountered Dibble on the street and moved to connect him with local resources.
“He’s a good guy with an interesting story,” she said.
Bruce Martin, proprietor of the recently re-opened Holly Hill Inn, hosted Dibble for the weekend free of charge.
“Brenda thinks on her feet, so that was a fortunate meeting,” he said. “And this is why I got into the bed and breakfast business — to meet interesting people.”
Dibble described the “warmth and generosity” of the town’s greeting and implored people to appreciate what they have.
“Sometimes we get caught up in the box and forget, until someone from outside can let you out,” he said.
Physically and mentally exhausted from walking so many miles, time spent in Pomeroy granted “the possibility of a better tomorrow.”
If Dibble is successful, more veterans might achieve the same.