Four Fernandina Beach veterans, from four different military branches, are rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to fight PTSD and veteran suicide.
The group is fittingly named “Foar From Home.” The “foar” is meant to coincide with “oar.”
The crew is made up of Army veteran Billy Cimino, Air Force veteran Cameron Hansen, Marine Corps veteran Paul Lore, and Navy veteran A.M. ‘Hupp’ Huppman. They left La Gomera, Spain, on Dec. 12 and are headed for Antigua -- one of the Leeward islands in the Caribbean.
Two of the men’s wives, Starla Hansen and Lulu Huppmann, said the journey started with some local inspiration and a bold idea.
“One day, we were all out and the boys just decided, ‘hey, we can do that’,” Lulu Huppmann said.
The team has been rowing now for more than three weeks, and the group is close to reaching its $730,000 goal.
Once it’s met, the women say the money will be used to build a mega-kennel for K9s for Warriors. The kennel will be named “Courageous.” It will house 64 dogs to be rescued, trained and paired with veterans.
Starla Hansen is also an Air Force veteran and said she has personally seen the struggle.
“We’ve all known people in our careers who have seen things they’ll never truly recover from emotionally,” Hansen said. “It makes it very real and very near to our hearts.”
Lulu Huppman knows of a hero whose life was saved by the dogs.
“It just makes me try not to have so much anxiety around this trip,” Lulu Huppmann said. “That there is a mission, and they are accomplishing this mission.”
While the women know their husbands are helping others -- it has brought anxiety in terms of knowing if their loved ones are safe.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions,” Starla Hansen said. “Every day, you get up and you’re checking your phone to see where, where are they? And then you’re waiting on that phone call to come from them every evening to say, ‘we’re OK, we had a good day today.’”
“The other wives and I are truly close and support each other and I think that’s how we’re really getting through this,” Lulu Huppmann said.
But still, they can’t wait for the reunion in Antigua -- knowing it’ll be a moment they’ll never forget.
“I probably won’t be able to breathe,” said Lulu Huppmann. “It’s all been surreal, I have to say. It’s going to be more surreal when they hit land.”
The group is expected to arrive in Antigua later this month around Jan. 28, but changes in the sea could cause delays. News4JAX hopes to chat with them when they arrive. If you want to sponsor the vets, track the crew’s progress in real-time and help them reach their goal, you can visit the “Foar From Home” website.