Army veteran travels the country to Dana Point to raise awareness of veteran suicides – Orange County Register

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The last thing Alex Seling did after completing a coast-to-coast hike that started at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and ended at Dana Point was to enter the ‘Pacific Ocean.

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling is all smiles as he is greeted at the end of his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling said left Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on December 21, 2020, hiking over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling is offered pizza after completing his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left the park to Cape Henlopen State in Delaware December 21, 2020 , hiked over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling gets a high-five as he completes his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left the Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on December 21. , 2020, traveling over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling walks in the Pacific Ocean after completing his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left the park to Cape Henlopen State in Delaware December 21, 2020 Hike over 4000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling is greeted by Kiki Macdonald after entering the Pacific Ocean after completing his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, January 31, 2022 Seling left Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on Dec. 21, 2020, traveling more than 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling is greeted as he completes his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left the state park from Cape Henlopen, Delaware on December 21, 2020, hiked over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling completes his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left Cape Henlopen State Park in the Delaware on December 21, 2020, traveling over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling receives a police escort as he walks the San Juan Creek Trail near the end of his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling departed Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on Dec. 21, 2020, traveling more than 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • U.S. Army veteran Alex Seling takes a selfie as he walks in the Pacific Ocean after completing his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022 Seling left Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on Dec. 21, 2020, hiking more than 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • US Army veteran Alex Seling is all smiles as his friend, Cecylia Mares, sprays him with water from the Pacific Ocean after completing his coast-to-coast walk at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Seling left Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on Dec. 21, 2020, traveling more than 4,000 miles to raise awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

On Monday, Jan. 31, Seling, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, was greeted by dozens of people at Doheny State Beach after completing the final leg of his journey along the San Juan Creek Trail.

Entering the Pacific, he completed a trek of more than 4,000 miles dedicated to raising awareness and fighting suicides among military veterans. As part of his efforts, he raised over $6,500 for Warrior Expedition and Mission 22.

According to the 2020 National Veterans Suicide Prevention Report compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, suicide among veterans appears to be increasing in America at a rate similar to that of the general civilian population. In 2018, 6,435 veterans committed suicide, compared to 6,056 in 2005.

“It’s amazing,” Seling said after reaching ocean waters. “It was absolutely the best moment of my life. It’s a bit overwhelming and I’m not sure it really hit me yet, but I’m really happy and proud of the trip.

It took 13 months for Seling, originally from Georgia, to get to Dana Point. He began his hike along the American Discovery Trail on December 21, 2020. He crossed Appalachia and hiked the Rocky Mountains. In Grand Junction, Colorado, he headed for Moab National Park in Utah, then walked southwest toward Dana Point.

His favorite places were West Virginia, southern Ohio and Colorado, he said.

On Sunday, he walked along the Ortega Highway, saying it was probably the most dangerous road he had taken. “It was very narrow along the shoulder and I had to go in and out.”

Seling said since his release from the military in 2010, he has continued to crave adventure. He joined the army for this reason.

Now, long-distance hiking fills that need.

“For me, it’s very therapeutic and it’s helped me grow as a person,” he said. “It helps me be a lot more confident and gives me time to reflect and process the things that I’ve been through.”

Kiki Macdonald of Dana Point was among those who welcomed Seling to Doheny. She first met him when he previously hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and was at a Mammoth campsite.

“Once I found out about this (about his cause), I decided we would be friends forever,” Macdonald said. “I followed his journey to the end as he made his way to Canada.”

In 2019, when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Seling ran into her. And, she returned the favor for this hike. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, she met him along his route, bringing leftovers and creating camps where he could rest and recharge.

“I was proud to help support him along the way,” she said. “I love that he went there and followed through.”

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