Operation Phoenix: Army Veteran Paddles 2600 Miles to Raise $185K

Operation Phoenix: Army Veteran Paddles 2600 Miles to Raise $185K

Only a few years ago, army veteran Josh Collins was in a downward spiral.

Countless injuries from combat–including seven traumatic brain injuries (TBI)–had left Collins struggling to fight on. But just when it seemed like all hope had been lost, Collins found a way to pick himself up. Not only for himself and his family, but for the countless veterans across our country–just like him–who struggle daily with PTSD and TBI.

Collins found solace in paddleboarding, which he found helped ease the pain from his injuries. Ironically, being on the board was the one place where his balance issues did not affect him and soon it became his therapy.

With a new found passion for life, the 37-year-old decided it was time to do something bigger than himself–a 2600 mile SUP expedition from Texas to New York to raise money and awareness for fellow veterans.

The journey would be an incredible challenge, with everything from gale force winds to seizures standing in Collins’ path. But there was no quit in this American hero, he had made up his mind that he was going to complete Operation Phoenix–the official name of the expedition.

Five months, 2600 miles and 1.8 million paddle strokes later, Collins paddled into New York Harbor and around the Statue of Liberty. After being greeted by cheering onlookers, the NYPD, NYFD, and the Coast Guard, Collins was overcome with emotion.

Only a few years ago he felt hopeless, now he was on top of the world.

While his incredible achievement undoubtedly inspired thousands of people around the country, it also raised a whopping $185,000 to help vets receive the treatment they need. His journey has received extensive news coverage, the admiration of the entire SUP community, and a nomination for Expedition of the Year at the 2016 SUP Awards.

However, Collins is not interested in personal glory, his main goal is–and has always been–to help curb the troubling statistic that 22 veterans take their own lives everyday. While Operation Phoenix was an admirable first step, Collins is far from finished.

His next goal is to complete the first-ever nonstop, unassisted, manpowered voyage in a small vessel around the world–over 24,000 nautical miles–in under 18 months. While it’s undoubtedly a very ambitious goal, Collins has proved he’s not a man to back down from a challenge.

Stay tuned to supthemag.com for an exclusive interview with Collins about this incredible expedition and his plans for the future.

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