TUPELO, Miss. (FOX13) – Saddling up for those who have fought for our country.
Marine veteran Matt Littrell, who served two tours in Iraq, is riding his horse coast-to-coast hoping to raise money for wounded and critically-ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
His trip is not just about raising money; it’s about letting American heroes know they still matter, once their service is finished.
For Littrell, who has made his way to Tupelo, Miss., this is no ordinary ride.
MORE: The Long Trail Home
MORE: Semper Fi Fund
“These horses, they carried me through the darkest times I’ve faced in my life and now, they’re going to carry me from ocean to ocean and hopefully help someone else,” he said.
With his feet firmly planted in the stirrups and reins in hand, Littrell and his longtime friend Raymond Avery are riding across the country to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund.
“More importantly, we’re getting out there and letting people know what these veterans are going through when they’re coming back and show these vets people still care,” Littrell said. “We care and we are still fighting for them.”
Littrell and Avery started their ride in Surf City, N.C., on May 1. Their destination is Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“We’re going to ride and show them every day we care,” said Littrell, who took a break from riding. “Every day is another 15-20 miles for them and that’s all it comes down to.”
The two men and their four horses are currently riding through North Mississippi. They literally don’t know where they’ll be staying the next night and depend on the kindness of strangers they’ve met on Facebook or along their ride to help them find a place to camp at night.
“I lay a tarp out,” Littrell said. “Raymond lays a tarp out and we sleep under the stars every night.”
It’s a long and unusual journey that Littrell estimates will take nine months to finish. But as he rides from town to town, he’s able to shed light on a problem that is killing military veterans once they’ve survived the battlefield.
Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide. Littrell says war is something a veteran can never forget.
“You don’t get over seeing those thing and doing what we had to do,” he said.
Riding and working with horses has allowed Littrell to cope with what he endured overseas.
“Horses saved my life, they truly did,” he said. “They taught me how to come down off of that battle-high, so to speak.”
From coast to coast, it’s why he rides. Not even two months into his long journey, Littrell says the payoff is already greater than he could have ever imagined.
“I know for a fact, we’ve had a couple guys put the gun down,” he said. “This ride could literally stop today and the main goal, just saving one, it’s already happened. But there’s a lot more between Tupelo and the Pacific Ocean.”