Two combat-wounded veterans are using their personal struggles to help the millions of others fighting the same battles. Daniel Egbert and Doc King created Project 22, a documentary about their 6,500-mile motorcycle trip across the United States, to bring awareness to the issues veterans face. In Part 1 of our two-part series on Daniel, Doc, and Project 22, we’ll learn that sometimes coming home is half the battle.
Daniel Egbert knew he was in trouble.
After joining the U.S. Marine Infantry in 2004, he was deployed twice, followed by a third to Iraq. When he got home all he wanted was back In, took an extension and returned for a 4th deployment to Afghanistan.
After eight months there, he left the Marines for good. But the New Yorker’s struggles adapting back home had not gone away.
“I was lost for about a year and a half in a weird, downward spiral. Everything that was good in my life, I was ruining,” Daniel says.
He didn’t know where to go next and found himself discussing his feelings and experiences with another veteran and close friend, Doc King. The two were aware of the staggeringly high number of suicides among veterans – an average of 22 a day. Daniel says.
“We started branching out and talking to everyone else, and everyone had the same issues,” Daniel says. Enough was enough – they knew they had to try to help.
The Birth of Project 22
Two weeks after that conversation, Daniel made the stressful (to put it mildly) decision to pack up his life and move to California. A month later, with a little bit of hustling, the two had funded their venture – now titled Project 22 – through crowdsourcing.
Project 22 would be a documentary about the high rates of suicide among veterans. Daniel, Doc, and their film crew (more to come on that) planned to ride across the U.S. on motorcycles and meet with veterans, doctors, and clinics to learn about the issues veterans face, how they’re being treated, and how to help them live full, meaningful lives and find hope for the future.
We had no idea how to work a camera
In addition to his military background, Daniel also studied film for two years and directed the Project 22 documentary, which is in post-production with the aim of a June 2014 release. “I’ve always, always loved film and the arts, so I knew that I was going to be a director or an editor,” he says.
But he’s the first to admit that his education and interests lie primarily in the creative side of the field rather than the technical.
“We were two veterans; we had no idea how to work a camera,” Daniel says, so they enlisted the three crew members to help with the filming. Out of the five crew members, Daniel and Doc were the only two veterans. The film’s concept was formed in a very modern way – remotely.
“We were never together as a group – no one had ever met. When we did meet, we all shook hands, got on our motorcycles and left. It was such a great connection.”
Completing the Journey
Filming of Project 22 was completed on a 27-day, 6,500-mile motorcycle trip during which Daniel, Doc, and their crew met with veterans of all backgrounds as well as experts in veteran recovery.
“We met with researchers in post-traumatic stress, brain injury, and depression as well as people who are doing natural and holistic things to help people with what they’re going through,” Daniel said. And while Project 22 focuses on veterans, the message is certainly not limited to them. “It’s not just veterans – everyone who suffers from post traumatic stress, because it is universal.”
The documentary is only the first step in a greater mission from Daniel and Doc. You’ve only heard half of the story so far. Keep checking back to learn about Daniel and Doc’s organization, Medicinal Missions, and the effects Project 22 is already having as well as the next step in the journey of these two veterans.
Don’t miss the second half of this two-part series. Learn more about Project 22 – and what you can do to help veterans in need – by signing up for our newsletter!
Aside from being the second Design Good-er to recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (the first was Tricia Andrews from Givebones), Daniel also swears by a childhood favorite, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and carried a copy with him during the filming of Project 22. “We stopped in Texas to use the bathroom at a bookstore, and I bought a copy and carried it with me the whole way. I think it’s a beautiful lesson – it makes me not be so selfish.” Relive your childhood by picking up your own copy over on Good Books.