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Route 66 News

War veterans suddenly in spotlight on Route 66

Here’s something eerie — two different stories about war veterans on Route 66 were posted on the Internet today within an hour of each other.

The Pontiac Daily Leader in Pontiac, Ill., reported on Tom Skinner cycling on much of Route 66 to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder — an ailment which dogged him for nearly 20 years. Skinner is a veteran of the first Iraq War.

Spokesman Dick Hatch said the Army initially diagnosed Skinner with PTSD, but inexplicably didn’t tell him about it. He found out about his disorder only recently:

Skinner decided with all the soldiers coming home from duty overseas, it was time to bring awareness to this problem and make sure everyone is treated better in the situation then he was.

“His idea was to be a good thing to bring awareness to PTSD in particular and to see if he can’t get some ground swell going to get better treatment of the people who are having problems as a result of their experience over there. They are there serving their country and they’re rather badly treated, in some cases at least,” he said.

Hatch said that Skinner figured a bike ride, beginning at the Welcome Home Ministries of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa, Calif., on March 10, would be something that could help raise awareness. The trip is a 3,800-mile bike ride, which is scheduled to take 117 days, mostly along Historic Route 66, and ending in White River Junction, Vt., the headquarters of the Veterans Administration PTSD support operation.

Skinner was in Joplin, Mo., on Wednesday, and was hoping to make it to Pontiac about May 25. Skinner’s website is here.

The Oak Leaves newspaper of Oak Park, Ill., reported that Kurt and Nick Gerber on Saturday will start a two-week motorcycle journey along Route 66 to shoot a documentary about U.S. war veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project is titled “Operation Route 66.”

“We wanted to tell a story of what’s going on in America. A generation of men and women are coming back from a war,” said Kurt Gerber, 52, an Oak Park resident.

“The human factor of their transition shouldn’t be ignored.” […]

The goal is to interview at least one veteran a day.

“Riding motorcycles allows us the most visceral and direct connection to the landscape and people,” Kurt Gerber said.

“We’re creating a book of portraits of 75 service members.”

Some days they’ll cover 50 miles, other times up to 600 miles. Stops are planned for: Springfield, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Flagstaff.

Here’s a trailer of the film:

The film will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, with the hope to have it playing in theaters by spring 2013.

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