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Guard Airman walks across Iowa for mental health awareness

By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot | 185th Air Refueling Wing | June 29, 2020

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Tech. Sgt. Jeff Campbell is walking from the east side of Iowa to the west side of the state to raise awareness about mental health.

The 20-day, 389-mile journey started in Clinton along the border with Illinois and will end in Sioux City.

“I want to remind people that they are not alone,” Campbell said when talking about the devastating effects of mental illness.

Campbell works as a survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist for the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City. He says the main part of survival on the battlefield is mustering the mental strength or will to survive in challenging situations.

“In the military, we do a really good job of giving our people all the equipment they need, but it simply comes down to mentality,” Campbell said. “Do you have something that you’re holding on to, to get you out of this very small speck of time that you’re going through, that’s the big difference.”

Campbell says mental health is not dissimilar to physical health in that staying healthy takes work. He says there are things people can do to keep mentally healthy.

“I want to do what I can to empower people to talk about their emotions, feelings and mental health concerns,” Campbell said.

Mental health is a particular concern during these times of social distancing and isolation because of COVID-19. Campbell says mental health issues affect everyone, whether in urban or rural areas, civilian or military life.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, somebody cares,” Campbell said.

He said it is important that people don’t keep things bottled up. He wants to encourage people to be ready to talk and ready to listen about their daily struggles.

“We need to teach people that these bubbles of time are not permanent,” Campbell said, adding that the way through a difficult situation is to talk to someone.

Campbell said if people can start having these crucial conversations, they can start to strengthen their mental muscles.