An Oregon veteran said he plans to drive more than 10,000 miles in his VW Bug this summer to speak about issues plaguing veterans, and Greenville is one of the stops on his route.
Scott Hicks said he packed up his 1965 Volkswagen Bug in Grants Pass, OR, on June 27 and hit the road after he grew tired of hearing about the VA scandal.
"I was sick of hearing people talk about helping veterans but not doing anything to fix the problem," Hicks said. "I'm the type of guy who sees something and does something about it, and that's what I'm doing."
Hicks, a disabled stateside veteran, said he will make 38 stops on his nationwide tour to share his frustrations with the VA, get input from other veterans and offer a message of hope to veterans who aren't getting the care they need. He said he's also educating the public about disturbing facts and figures.
"The average time to get an appointment with a VA doctor takes two to six months," Hicks said. "If you need to see a specialist, then the wait time is a minimum of six months, but it can take up to two years."
Another big issue for Hicks is the high rate of veteran suicides.
"We need to make more people aware that 22 veterans commit suicide every single day," Hicks said. "Most of those incidents stem from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which are other things that I want to help educate the general public about."
Hicks said every time he stops to speak at car shows and other public events on his route, he offers a message of hope and some steps veterans can take to help them deal with combat stress and depression.
"I speak about goal setting and how achieving those goals can really have a positive impact," Hicks said.
Local VW enthusiast and founder of the Upstate Volkswagen Association, Bill Gaines, said he heard about Hicks' journey via social media, and first planted the idea of a stop in the Upstate in Hicks' ear.
"I told (Hicks) that South Carolina has a rich military history," Gaines said. "And I just wanted to get him to travel through this area so we could show him what our area is about."
"I'm excited about coming to South Carolina," Hicks said. "[Bill Gaines] said the people (in the Upstate) are very patriotic and very receptive to veteran's causes."
Gaines said he's asking other local VW Bug owners rally together at the Georgia-South Carolina border on I-85 on Thursday afternoon.
"[Hicks] has big American flag on a mast attached to his front bumper, and I think it's be a great show of support if he led a procession with some of our local Bug owners into town," Gaines said.
Hicks said he'll be speaking before a race at the Greer Drag Strip on Thursday evening and asked that other local car groups or civic organizations interested in hearing him speak to reach out to him through his Facebook page or website.
Hicks said he has his GoPro camera at the ready during every mile he drives and at every stop he makes to record his journey and interview the veterans he meets along the way. He said he's raising money to buy more video equipment, in hopes of creating a documentary film that shows the hardships veterans are facing and offer a solution for the veterans' healthcare crisis.
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