Joshua Ploetz, a Minnesota veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, has completed his attempt to “paddle off the war” by canoeing down the Mississippi, chronicling his trip on a Facebook page.
Ploetz, 30, a St. Charles native, reached the end of the river yesterday. But he told the Associated Press he knows his struggles aren’t over.
He made friends along the way, including Aleks Nelson, a kayaker from Duluth, Minnesota, who joined Ploetz about 10 days into the trip and paddled alongside him to the end. Ploetz brought a baton made from the handle of a stretcher that carried wounded troops in Afghanistan, which Ploetz called a symbol of hope for struggling veterans.
He said he knows his own battle with post-traumatic stress isn’t over, and may never be, but the river taught him how to cope.
“You’re going to have your troubles on the river, but just keep paddling,” he said. “You’ll make it through it.”
His last morning on the river, he read scripture beneath a rainbow that peeked through puffy white clouds overhead. As he paddled his way into the Gulf of Mexico on July 28, he lifted his baton in triumph. The finish, he said, was bittersweet: “I want to be done, but I want more river to paddle.”