Suncoast vet to hit the Appalachian Trail to inspire other veterans

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Christopher Davis's motto has always been "just keep moving step at a time." It brought him safely back from the battlefield, and it's inspiring him to take on a tough challenge to help other veterans.

For 14 years, Davis fought for his country in the U.S. Army. "I was a paratrooper and an intelligence analyst. I did seven tours between Iraq and Afghanistan."

When he came home, adjustment was hard.

He struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I was homeless for about 3 months, and I was also unemployed for a little while."

But he fought his way back, and now he is program manager for Goodwill Manasota's Veterans and their Families Initiative. "Which helps veterans here locally get jobs, get access to services that they need. We've paid for cars, we are a very well rounded program.”

Yen Reed works with him. "We help military folks and their families transition from their military life to the civilian life, and anything from case management to insurance to benefits to health care."

Back when Chris was on active duty, in the heat of battle, he made himself a promise. "When I was in Afghanistan after a really big fight one night, I said to myself ‘I'm going to do all the things in my bucket list.’"

Number one on his list: walk the Appalachian Trail. He starts that journey on May 29th.

He's doing it as a fundraiser for his Manasota Goodwill veterans program and as a message to other veterans who are struggling. "If they just put one foot in front of the other, and not become discouraged at everything that’s thrown at them, that they'll be successful."

He expects to take about 6 months to walk the 2185-mile long trail.

He's not worried about running into wild animals or dangerous humans along the way. “The most dangerous part of the trail is not a bear or a snake, it's actually ticks. Lyme disease is one thing that will get you pulled off the trail fast."

He won't alone, he says he's walking with his heroes, represented by bracelets. "Eight of the people I personally knew that were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; they were friends of mine."

And he says those friends lost will inspire him to continue helping other veterans and to make the 5 million steps it takes to complete the trail.

The backpack Chris will be wear on his walk only weighs 26 pounds; but after 2,165 miles it gets to be pretty heavy. His name on the train is Goodwill Walking, so if you pass by say hello.