Paddler On a Mission for Veterans

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Joseph Mullin at the launch on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Kathryn G. Menu photo

For Joseph Mullin, a 66-year-old veteran of the United States Navy, the journey is as important as the destination, and last week his own journey brought him to Sag Harbor.

Mr. Mullin, a Massachusetts resident who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, wants to raise awareness to the fact that over 20 veterans commit suicide daily. He is traversing the eastern seaboard raising money for a non-profit dedicated to veteran services and just happens to be doing it on a kayak.

“When I decided to retire, I knew I wanted to do this and do it for a cause,” Mr. Mullin said while standing at the Sag Harbor Village launch ramp on Bay Street last Wednesday, after hitching a ride for himself and his white, Current Designs, sea kayak from Forever Bungalows on Route 114 earlier that morning. “Because I am a veteran, and I do suffer from PTSD, I started looking at veteran organizations where most of the money goes directly to veterans and their families. That is how I found Mission 22.”

Mission 22 is a non-profit founded by veterans who suffered from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries and offers services for veterans and their families.

Mr. Mullin began his journey on April 30, 2017, embarking from Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, Maine. Sidelined by a disabled kayak, Mr. Mullin came ashore in Rhode Island, beginning his mission again on May 5. He arrived in Sag Harbor on May 15 after travelling from Guilford to the North Fork, then to Shelter Island, before landing on Long Beach. On May 16, he planned to kayak to the Shinnecock Canal and cross over before heading to Fire Island.

His ultimate destination is Texas, but Mr. Mullin is not in a rush as he greets veterans and other paddlers and boaters while talking about Mission 22, which is just as important as the miles he logs. In fact, he has budgeted an entire year to make his way down the coast and to Houston, where his daughter lives.

A volunteer in underwater recovery for decades, Mr. Mullin served as a jet mechanic and on an anti-submarine helicopter squadron. His PTSD was born out of his volunteer efforts — finding himself trapped underwater on three occasions while diving in water with zero visibility. Now, Mr. Mullin says it is on the water where he finds peace.

“I don’t know what it is to sleep eight hours straight,” he said. “I wake up three, four times a night, and when I am awake, I am in fear that I will be triggered in some way. Being around the water my whole life, as soon as I launch the kayak, I am at peace. When I am on the water, I don’t have to worry about being triggered.”

To learn more about Mission 22, visit mission22.com. To follow Mr. Mullin’s journey, visit acske2017.org.

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