CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - After 20 years of Special Forces service, which included tours in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, Josh Collins is now taking on the biggest mission of his life: a 3,500-mile paddleboard trek that will take him from Corpus Christie, TX to the Statue of Liberty on his paddle board.
It's all in the name of bringing awareness to fellow soldiers who, like him, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
On Saturday, Collins fought strong head winds as he paddled up to throngs of supporters on Clearwater Beach. Many paddled out to meet Collins off shore, a phenomenon that's frequently occurred over the last 42 days of his journey.
"I'm still getting used to it," laughed Collins. "I'll meet perfect strangers like five miles out in the middle of a bay and I'm like, how'd you find me?"
It's fairly easy to find Collins, who uses SPOT's tracking software to allow anyone around the world to follow his progress.
Collins, who seems perfectly at ease upright on his paddle board is actually fairly new to the sport. He was first introduced to paddle boarding at the VA hospital in Tampa two years ago and was immediately hooked.
"That was like the lights finally coming on for the first time in a long time in a dark room and it was a wonderful place," said Collins.
Injuries to his ears, eyes, spine and brain have thrown of his physical and mental equilibrium. Collins was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and TBI. Two years ago he sought treatment after prescription medications and alcohol abuse caused a downward spiral of depression that nearly cost him everything until he finally found a substance-free way to cope.
Collins says Task Dagger Force, a charity dedicated to helping wounded Special Forces veterans and their families, helped save his life.
He's now hoping his recover story will inspire others suffering from TBI and PTSD as well.
Learn more about Collins, Veteran Voyage 360 and follow his blog here: http://www.veteranvoyage360.com/