WASHINGTON — Matt Perella, who was an SGT in the Marine Corps, is on a mission to save lives but not like when he served in the armed forces.
Perella, his horse Buck and dog Raffe are known as the Three Amigos. The trio will travel more than 4,000 miles from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and before arriving in San Francisco, California. The goal of the walk is to raise money for The Righteous Life Rescue Ranch which helps veterans with PTSD and rescues horses and dogs.
"It breaks my heart that people’s minds can get to such a place," said Perella.
The ranch will be home to retired horses that will provide equine therapy to veterans or anyone who is looking for companionship and comfort. The ranch will take in dogs from kill shelters, train them to become service dogs and later be donated to veterans suffering from PTSD.
Perella served in the Marines from 1999 to 2003, he retired having developed PTSD.
"I had suicidal thoughts but it was my dog that saved my life," said Perella.
His experiences inspired him to help other veterans suffering from PTSD.
"I lost many friends to the PTSD battle. I wish there were more places that we can go to and squash these negative thoughts," said Perella. "That's why I'm on this journey and hopefully we can get dogs in front of veterans."
The plan is to build The Righteous Life Rescue Ranch in Asheville, North Carolina and open in July 2023.
Perella began planning for this trip in the fall of 2021. The Three Amigos started training for this journey in Massachusetts. When it got too cold, they we went down to Lake Worth Florida. However, it was too hot for Raffe, so they finished their training in North Carolina.
The mission started on May 1 and is expected to take about seven months. Perella plans to arrive in San Francisco by the winter.
The trio has been inspiring people along their journey.
"The horse and dog have inspired so many lives," said Perella. "People have come up and touched my animals and 'that just cleansed my soul'."
Perella handles most of the logistical work. He drives about 30 miles ahead and relies on anyone who can give him a ride back while leaving his horse unattended.
"That has been the hardest part but there have been amazing people in Maryland helping out," he explained.
Matt also says a volunteer is going to help him with transportation for a month.
Just last year, retired soldier Greg C. Washington walked 1,800 miles to bring awareness to the mental health struggles many of our veterans face. The latest Veterans Affairs report shows nearly 18 veterans die by suicide every day. The report was published in 2020, but the data lags two years behind, so the latest numbers are from 2018. Many suspect the pandemic has made it worse.
The Three Amigos will set a world record by crossing the USA on a horse with a dog walking alongside.
"If I just help one person. This journey will be worth it. This is my new purpose," said Perella. "That's what I hope to give these veterans with PTSD. A new reason to live."