CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The spotlight on veterans' physical and mental health has never been brighter, thanks to the efforts of groups like Burn Pits 360.
The Robstown-based non-profit is hitting the road for a good cause later this month.
Burn Pits 360 hosts its third annual Texas Patriot Ruck March on Oct. 30. It's a 22-mile march to raise awareness about veterans' mental-health issues, as well as money, so that the organization can continue its fight for veterans whose scars of war aren't always visible.
“I was there and I suffered,” said Andres Cardenas.
Earlier this year, Cardenas wasn't sure if he'd be here today. This seemingly healthy U.S. Army veteran was suddenly in the hospital, with his liver, kidneys, and lungs failing.
“I was in a coma for two months, I was on life support,” said Cardenas. “It wasn't nice at all.”
Cardenas woke up just in time for his 51st birthday. He said his health issues are directly related to his time in the military, specifically, his service in Operation Desert Storm.
Less than a year later after his coma, he's tackling a 22-mile ruck march.
“This gives me a chance to help other veterans,” said Cardenas. “What I like about it is that my wife and my daughter can participate with me.”
“That's what it's about, the community, the helping each other out,” said his wife, Lucinda Cardenas.
The Burn Pits 360 Texas Patriot March will be Cardenas' first since he was in uniform. He'll walk 22 miles, while his family works a water station. They’ll actually be at the last one before the finish, and Lucinda is looking forward to seeing her husband back in his element.
“I’m going to be crying,” Lucinda said. “Seeing him crossing that finish line... it's making me tear up now thinking of him just coming, coming home.”
The Cardenas family said they're grateful for what Burn Pits 360 does for veterans like Andres. That's why giving back is so important to them.
“It helps other veterans, families, spouses, kids to understand that you're not in it alone,” Lucinda said. “We're all here together.”
“We get a real (sense of) accomplishment helping other veterans,” Cardenas said.
The march also benefits the family of Texas Dept. of Safety Trooper Juan Tovar, who was wounded in the line of duty last April.
The Texas Patriot Ruck March starts at 7 a.m. Oct. 30 at the Warrior Support Center in Robstown. Marchers will make their way to the Coastal Bend Veterans Cemetery. If you’d like to register or volunteer, click here, or call Irma Davila at 361-777-8298.