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The Walk of America: Q&A with John Mayhead
Veteran John Mayhead tells us about participating in The Walk of America
Can you start by telling us a little about yourself – where you're from, and how you got involved in Walking with the Wounded and the upcoming Walk of America?
I’m from Chichester, West Sussex. I served 19 years in the Coldstream Guards, leaving in 2010 as a Major. I developed PTSD following a tour in Iraq, which I have been battling for some years. I heard about the Walk of America (WOA) and saw it as an opportunity to tell my story as well as test myself.
What does being involved with the project mean to you?
It’s hugely important to me. It means I’m part of a team again, and doing something constructive. I feel that it is a way to use my illness to positive effect.
How does it feel to be working as part of a US/UK Transatlantic team?
Great! I’ve only met Adele so far of the US team, but there was an immediate bond with our links to Iraq. I’ve loved working alongside the Americans in the past, both on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I also worked in a big US headquarters. Just as we fight together, so we should recover together; there are so many advances being made in the understanding of military mental health that it is right that we partner for this venture.
Walking across a country the size of America is a big challenge, with plenty of different weather patterns and terrains. What are you looking forward to, what are you perhaps nervous about, ahead of such a big walk?
I’m only doing the first couple of weeks, but I’m looking forward to experiencing Southern California. I am a little bit daunted by the Joshua Tree National Park; in my mind’s eye it was big mountains covered and trees, but it is actually a desert. I suppose as a U2 fan I should have known that!
How does the walk compare to the other challenges you've faced in your life?
I’ve done a couple of long-distance walks before but nothing on this scale. It will certainly be a challenge and I wish I had the time to do the whole walk, but with a young family and job I can’t. I think the publicity may also be hard - I recently found myself live on TV talking about mental health problems I’d only really shared with close family and friends.
How are you getting on with those small US/UK cultural - and language - differences within the team?
No real problems yet, but I’m sure we’ll find some on the way! I’m really looking forward to seeing the support we get from the US public - I think we all expect it to be much more obvious than in the UK.
Have you met Prince Harry? How has he helped the project, and how is he inspiring you as you prepare for the big walk?
I met him at the press launch, and he had about 20 minutes talking to us. I’d heard from people who served with him that he’s a good bloke, and my first impression confirmed this. He was really engaged, really interested in our stories, and took time to reassure one of the walkers who spoke at the press conference. His presence brings attention to the venture and to military mental health in general. It’s fantastic having his support.
What's the first thing you'll do when you reach New York?
Unfortunately I’m not going that far!
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to help others in times of need?
Admitting you have a problem is the hardest step, but the sooner you make it, the sooner you can get professional help. For someone with PTSD, that could be the best thing you could do for the people you love.
What aspect of being involved in the walk are you most proud of?
Drawing attention to military mental health problems. If it helps just one other person, it is worth it.
The Walk of America sets off from California on June 2, with the team set to arrive in New York on September 6th. Find out how to support the Veterans, donate and learn more about Walking with the Wounded at www.wwtw.org.uk/WOA.
Check out our other Q&As with the team below.