SOLVANG, Calif. - A Palo Alto firefighter is hiking down the California Coast in an effort to fight post traumatic stress disorder.
Central Coast fire departments and veterans are teaming up with him as he makes his way through the area.
Firefighter John Preston with the Palo Alto Fire Department has been hiking for more than two weeks.
“We are hiking 620 miles with the hopes to end and stop veteran and first responder suicide,” Preston said.
Preston’s brother who was a marine corps Veteran and police officer for 20 years killed himself after a battle with PTSD.
The firefighter is joined by several veterans and Charles Spencer with the Montecito Fire Department who also lost a veteran friend to suicide.
“I’m just trying to help support what he’s doing and generate a little bit of awareness since this is my home area and see if we can generate a little more following as he passes through our county,” Spencer said.
Preston has faced physical challenges along the way.
Preston said he’s learning that it’s OK to ask for help in times of need, even during his march to the USS Midway.
“It’s been a major ride a lot more challenges than expected my feet didn’t hold out very well. The pack itself is 22 kg and we’re going 22 miles a day,” Preston said.
The pack Preston was carrying became so heavy during the journey that he had to ask for help. And that relief came.
“We went on social media for help. From that moment going forward the fire service has not left us The fire service has worked with us every day leading us along and taking the pack off of my back lifting my burdens,” Preston said.
Despite the hardships, Preston says his message is well worth every step.
John Preston's team passed through Solvang on its way to Live Oak Camp near Cachuma Lake Tuesday.
The 26-day journey down the Central Coast continues tomorrow when he hikes from Live Oak Camp to Monecito.