OTTUMWA, Iowa -- The run is grueling. Over 200 miles in the bag with 80 miles still left to go. It’s day eight of 10 for Joshua Jorgensen, the masked veteran.
On Wednesday, Joshua ran from Albia to Agency. Every step he takes moving forward, he’s wearing a military grade gas mask and what it represents.
"The struggle, you know, to me it’s a challenge. I like to challenge myself to these endurance events, but it’s also become a symbol of what these veterans struggle with when they’re struggling with PTSD," said Joshua.
With restricted breathing, Joshua is running across the state to raise awareness for veteran suicide rates due to PTSD. Every day, 20 veterans take their own lives as a result of PTSD and untreated depression.
"I’m very proud of him…very proud of him, and it’s amazing that he can keep doing this. I can’t imagine 10 days in the mask, wind, and sun. It’s very impressive," said Joshua's cousin Michael Hoygens, who made Wednesday's run with him.
Along with his cousin, Joshua says he's been joined by other people along the trek.
"When I started out last Wednesday, I was self-supported, and that was the plan. I was going to make my way across the state by myself the best way I could, but I haven’t been by myself at all, and that’s the message that we’re trying to put out there, that there’s people out there that want to help and want to be there for you," said Joshua.
With two days left before he ends his run in Burlington, Joshua hopes his cross-state run will inspire other veterans who may be dealing with the scars of war we can’t see.
"This struggle is voluntary, but it represented the struggle that all veterans go through and are out there thinking, 'maybe I can’t see the finish line.' But it is there if they keep moving forwards and keep taking those steps towards it, they’ll make it," he said.
Joshua is being assisted on his run by Team Fidelis, a veteran mental health non-profit out of Kansas City.