by Lisa Tome
While other people will spend their upcoming holiday weekend picnicking or at the beach, Jill Lee will spend it supporting those who have served our country.
Lee, of Rising Sun, is embarking on an approximate 20-mile walk on July 3.
The walk will take her from the Delaware National Guard's 153rd MP Company to the North East Town Park.
She's not collecting money. Instead, she hopes to raise awareness about the plight of veterans. Lee, whose husband Thomas, has been a member of the National Guard for 17 years, and who has been deployed twice, is currently being treated at a Wounded Warrior Unit in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Lee makes one to two visits, a 240-mile round trip, to see her husband each week.
Thomas Lee was first deployed to Iraq in 2007-08. He was again deployed to Afghanistan in January 2013 and returned to the states nine months later. He has now been in Fort Belvoir for 22 months.
Jill Lee and her son, Austin, 20, will make the walk together starting in Delaware City in the early morning hours, about 6 a.m. on July 3. Thomas Lee will follow the walkers in his truck which will be decorated to let people know about the Wounded Warrior cause.
Her reasons for the walk are multi-fold.
She said she wants to honor her husband's years of service.
She also wants to "raise awareness of the struggles of service members and what they endure".
The family will stop at North East Middle School at about 3 p.m.
There, they hope others will join them as they complete the final leg of the walk to the Salute to Veterans Celebration at North East Park. All are welcome to join.
"The general public needs to know the nightmare that we've been through. Before these (deployed military) go to war, they teach them to be successful and survive. When they come home, the system is broken from top to bottom," said Lee, who said she is concerned about the high rate of suicide among returning military.
"Service members lose life and limb. I can't put into words what this has been like. This walk is because I have so much frustration. I want to raise awareness. They go from one war to stay alive to another war to get care."
Thomas and the rest of the Lee family have struggled.
"Out of everything he has been through, he would not change a thing. He (Thomas) loves his country and would lay down his life for his country. I advocate for him because I have to," she said. "I want this walk to be inspirational and motivational. I am doing this for all the service members not just my husband."