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Local veteran raising PTSD awareness on cross country bike tour

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Albany/HV: Local veteran raising PTSD awareness on cross country bike tour
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One year after ending her 14 year military career, a Lansingburgh native is set to embark on a three-month long journey across the country in hopes of raising awareness about post traumatic stress disorder. As YNN's Matt Hunter found out, she knows first hand how much of a struggle PTSD can be.

LANSINGBURGH, N.Y. -- Colleen Bushnell's Air Force career formally ended last year but the Lansingburgh native is one of thousands of U.S. military veterans who continue to battle post traumatic stress disorder after their service is complete.

"Like many veterans, I put a face on when I'm in public but at home it can be a struggle," Bushnell said.

"Since she's been home back in New York, it's incredible to see how she gets through her days because she gets very overwhelmed quickly," said Darcy Lenhardt, a childhood friend of Bushnell.

In 2003, Bushnell was sexually assaulted by a fellow airman at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. A year later she suffered the same horror again.

"My main source of stress was coping after reporting what had happened to me," Bushnell said.

Upon returning home, Bushnell found the resources available to help her were sparse.
Living on a limited income, it took nearly two years for her disability claim to be filed and she lost custody of her two sons.

"For me and my situation, the resources didn't exist. Change is happening but they weren't there in 2006," Bushnell said.

While her own struggles are by no means behind her, Bushnell is now trying to help other veterans who may be in her shoes.

Next week, she and four other combat veterans will embark on "The Long Road Home Project," a 90-day bike trip from Washington state to Washington, D.C., to raise money and awareness for PTSD.

On Sunday, friends and family held a fundraiser to help support her venture. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffer from PTSD. Bushnell is hoping that sharing her story will make it easier for many of those men and women to seek the help they need.

"It's personal,” Bushnell said. "We'll shake hands, we'll look folks in the eye and say 'this is who we are' and in sharing our stories, we hope that folks will decide to share the burden of helping our nation's veterans reintegrate."

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