Winona veteran completes ‘Paddle off the War’ journey down Mississippi

Marine veteran Joshua Ploetz canoes entire Mississippi River, arrives at Gulf of Mexico
Winona veteran completes ‘Paddle off the War’ journey down Mississippi

A Minnesota war veteran’s journey to “paddle off the war” is complete.

News 8 first brought you the story of Joshua Ploetz in June. Ploetz served two tours in Afghanistan as a Marine, and after losing friends in combat and to suicide, he was left battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I’m one of I don’t know how many left in my squad, and you hold that guilt a little bit,” said Ploetz in June, when he made a stop in Winona. “You know, every day that I live on this earth and my friends that don’t, I want to make sure that I represent them, too.”

In an effort to help himself heal and honor the friends he’s lost, Ploetz spent the past few months canoeing down the entire length of the Mississippi River — more than 2300 miles.

“Being on the river, you have nothing but 12 hours of sitting in a boat, you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything besides paddle and think,” Ploetz said in June.

He started his journey on May 19 in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and posted updates and photos on his “Paddle off the War” Facebook page along the way. According to the Facebook page, he made it to the Gulf of Mexico last week. The voyage took him a total of 71 days — 51 days of paddling and 20 rest days.

Ploetz’s trip also raised money to help people who have lost a veteran to PTSD. He was able to raise over $5000 for the Allied Forces Foundation, with donations ranging from $20 to $1000.