“Veterans deserve someone to make outrageous goals for them,” said rider
Veteran Matt Littrell (left) and friend Raymond Avery (right) take a break at the overlook on Burnt Mountain before continuing their 2,700 mile trip across country on horseback to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund.
It was just a year-and-a-half ago that veteran Matt Littrell was staring at a pistol, thinking of taking his own life.
But unlike the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, with only 22 states reporting, Littrell didn’t follow through.
“I was almost one of them,” said the Elbert, Colo. man who on Tuesday, June 3 was in Talking Rock, 400 miles into a 2,700 ride across country on horseback to raise money to help veterans back home after war. “I didn’t, then I woke up the next day knowing what I needed to do.”
Littrell is traveling with lifelong friend Raymond Avery from their starting point in Serf City, N.C. to Camp Pendleton in California in hopes of raising money for the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that provides assistance to wounded veterans who struggle with visible and invisible wounds from combat.
Littrell was an infantryman with Golf Company 2nd Battalion 5th Marines who served two tours in Iraq. On the second tour in 2004-2005 Littrell was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq during their first election and was involved in heavy combat. During that tour 26 Marines in his battalion were killed.
“The need to help our veterans is great,” Littrell wrote on his fundraising website. “Government funded organizations such as the VA are so back logged and inadequately staffed that claims are taking too long to help our vets in time. I have witnessed too many of my own brothers die long after the shooting stopped to remain idle any longer.”
Littrell and Avery are traveling with four horses, Tequila Sunrise, Siren, Roy and Crow. Through their Facebook page “The Long Trail Home” - which has over 24,000 likes - they connect to a network of horse lovers, veterans, and those who support veterans to find places to stay along their journey, which is expected to take between eight and nine months at a speed of 15-20 miles a day.
But the pair of cowboys never sleep inside. They throw out tarps in the yards of people who welcome them for the night.
“We sleep under the stars,” said Littrell, who stayed at Fancy Mount Farm in Talking Rock the night they traveled through Pickens. “And when it’s raining we get wet, and when it’s hot we sweat – but that is nothing compared to what our veterans go through for us.”
Over the course of his journey, Littrell wants to raise $7 million for the Semper Fi Fund, a lofty goal but one he thinks he can reach.
“Seven million might sound crazy, but riding across the country on horseback is crazy too,” he said. “Veterans deserve someone to make outrageous goals for them.”
Travel alongside Littrell on his journey by following “The Long Trail Home” Facebook page. While you’re there you can follow a link and make a donation to the Semper Fi Fund.