Man paddles 2,000 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicides
October 3, 2018
KEY LARGO — “When I get to the Southernmost Point, then I’ll be done,” said Joe Mullin, paddling his kayak Saturday as he neared the end of his Maine-to-Key West coastal journey of more than 2,000 miles.
Mullin and his support team celebrated the Mission 22 finish one day later.
“People cheered and moved out of the way” at the landmark spot, Mullin, 67, wrote in a concluding blog post. “It was great.”
The journey’s intent was to raise awareness of the need for counseling to stem a veterans’ suicide rate of 22 per day, a figure based on a Veterans Affairs study over an 11-year period.
“The mission is the main reason. We’ve got to stop this epidemic of 22 veterans lost per day,” Mullin said. “I wanted to paddle for a cause and decided these are the people I want to work for.”
Mullins served in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, including four years of active duty. However, he said his 20 years of volunteering as a member of an auxiliary underwater-recovery unit triggered his own post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We brought up bodies, vehicles and evidence” while cooperating with law-enforcement agencies, he said.
Mullin began his kayak trip in April 2017, with a few weeks-long breaks along the way.
“In the beginning, I made a mistake bringing the wrong kayak,” he said. “By the time I got to Rhode Island, I’d capsized three times and was treated for hypothermia at the hospital.”
He switched to a Current Designs Solstice GT, nearly 18 feet long with a 24-inch width, that would carry him to Key West. Mullin estimated he paddled six to eight hours a day, covering 10 to 40 miles, depending on conditions.
A former electronics engineer, Mullin closed his Massachusetts home before undertaking his Atlantic Coast Sea Kayak Expedition, chronicling along the way online at acske2017.org.