‘I will help anybody that needs it’: Local veteran offers hope to prevent veteran suicides

SALEM, Va. – Travis Overstreet II will proudly tell you that service runs in his blood.

“I have 13 blood veterans in my family,” said Overstreet. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was WWII. My grandfather on my father’s side, he was a Marine in WWII and Korea. And my father was two tours in ‘Nam.”

The Lynchburg native enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1996.

“I actually left for boot camp the day after I graduated high school,” said Overstreet.

Following in his footsteps: his stepbrother Jesse Whitfield.

“He served in the Army after I got out of the Marines. He served two tours in Iraq and he saw some pretty nasty stuff,” said Overstreet. “A couple of years ago, unfortunately, due to PTSD, he took his life.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, at some point in their life, 7% of veterans will have PTSD. In 2020, the suicide rate for Veterans was 57.3% higher than that of non-veteran adults.

“[Jesse] relied on me a lot and I didn’t have the right tools at the time to help him. Now I do. And I will help anybody that needs it,” said Overstreet.

Overstreet said he also suffers from PTSD. The devastating loss pushed Overstreet to help others the only way he knew how, by getting outdoors.

“Mother Nature is the best medicine,” said Overstreet.

The outdoor enthusiast started hosting small excursions for veterans and raising money for Beyond Boundaries, a Richmond-based nonprofit that provides outdoor adventures for veterans, individuals with disabilities, underserved youth, or substance recovery programs.

But Overstreet wanted to do more. So last year, he joined on as the Roanoke Program Director.

Army veteran turned volunteer Sara Wilkins found Beyond Boundaries at a dark time in her life.

“It just helps me mentally know I’m not alone,” said Wilkins. “It helps me out by helping others.”

On Friday, they headed to Richmond for a weekend of rafting, climbing, and comradery. They said no veteran needs to feel alone.

“Reach out ... all going through this.. all of us.”

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!