ATO talks ‘Walk Hard’ at Female Factor

Published 9:26 pm Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Female Factor on Wednesday was sobering as the ladies who packed The Studio were asked to remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001.

“We can all remember hearing about the planes hitting the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon and the plane that was brought down by 40 civilians in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” said Diana Lee.  “We remember that almost 3,000 Americans died on that day.”

Lee said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that came after the 9/11 attacks have claimed the lives of more than 6,700 members of the U.S. military. More than 52,000 have been wounded in action and many others carry wounds that are not visible.

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The members of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity at Troy University not only remember, they Walk Hard.

“Each year, members of Alpha Tau Omega walk 128.3 miles to Panama City, Florida during their spring break to raise money for their philanthropy, Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures,” Lee said. She added, laughing, that when her son told her he was going to participate in Walk Hard 2018 her response was  “During Spring Break? One hundred and twenty-eight miles? In the rain and cold and heat? Yeah?”


In the spring of 2018, 32 ATO brothers walked from Troy University to Pier Park in Panama City and raised an outstanding $62,000 for Jeep Sullivan’s program. The fraternity raised $71,000 on Walk Hard 2019.

All the proceeds were donated to Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures that provide opportunities to some of America’s bravest citizens – opportunities they might otherwise not have.

Troy University junior Fate Calton, 2020 Walk Hard chair, said the ATOs are fervent believers in “walking hard.”

“Walk Hard is a six-day, 128.3-mile walk,” Calton said. “Each ATO walks with a 40-pound pack and carries water. Every mile becomes harder. Why do we do this? Because of Jeep Sullivan and Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures.”

Sullivan and his wife Meg are the founders of Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures. Sullivan, said God transitioned him out of church ministry to lead a ministry that would offer opportunities for hunting, fishing and fellowship to veterans and combat wounded that would facilitate the healing of the spirit, soul and body

“And this would be offered at no cost,” Sullivan said. “Through these outdoor adventures coupled with a Christ-centered ministry, we seek to heal the mental wounds related to combat. And also, to ensure these warriors that they will not be forgotten by incorporating them into a network of good men and lasting friendships.”

Sullivan said he dubs the Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures the “Ministry of Smiles” because of the joy and happiness expressed by the warriors that participate in the ministry.

Lance Gieselmann, who attended Female Factor, was a tank gunner serving in Iraq. When his tank was hit by an explosive, he was violently ejected. He received a severe head injury and his leg had to be amputated below the knee.

“After that, I became a hermit,” he said. “I would not go out of the house, not until Jeep Sullivan and Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures made a difference in my life.”

Gabriel Sistrunk told the Female Factor gathering that  he, too, became a hermit after being wounded.

“I was not a hero,” he said. “I had given up on everything until I got connected to Jeep Sullivan. I got my life going again. I’m so thankful.”

The Female Factor audience stood and applauded the efforts of Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, which connects warriors, many of whom, like Gieselmann and Sistrunk, had slipped into a life of isolation, until they connected with others like them through outdoor adventures and a Christ-centered ministry.

Karen Herring, committee member, said Female Factor is eager to support  the Troy University ATOs with a monetary donation toward Walk Hard 2020. She encouraged the participants to support the efforts over the next two months. The public is also invited to support Walk Hard 2020 through monetary donations.

For more information, contact Karen Herring at Troy Regional Medical Center or Diana Lee at Troy Bank & Trust.