Vietnam veteran reflects on life after war, overcoming PTSD with running

The bells that tolled Sunday in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood carried special weight for Doug Howell. It was both a grand gesture and a deeply personal symbol for Howell, who has spent his life reflecting on his enlistment and the enlistment of others.

"I am so thankful that I get this chance I get to celebrate the men and women of our service," Howell said. "I get to celebrate the guys that did not come home with me. My company lost nearly 75% of our company in one battle."

At times, Howell's voice broke as he fought back tears. The carnage he witnessed while in conflict happened decades ago - but remain ever-present in his mind. 

It's why he spent much of his time out of service struggling with the trauma that he inflicted.

"I thought I must not have fought hard enough - I must not have been brave enough, I must not have saved enough marines, I must not have worked hard enough," he said. "Why am I here and they're not?"

He wrestled with the question for years. It was during his darker days that he began a journey toward recovery - though he wouldn't know it until years later.

"I hitchhiked all over the country for several years trying to run away when I finally realized I couldn’t run away I had to turn around and face it," he said. Ironically, it was the sport of running that would help him overcome.

It was during his longer runs when he learned to forgive himself. Each day and each run came with the opportunity to start over again. 

The passion for running bloomed and eventually spilled into a veterans-sponsored event that happens in Detroit. Over the weekend on Nov. 6, the 4Star 4Mile race that Howell helps put on in the city kicked off. 

More than 100 runners including vets and supporters took off ahead of the parade.

Another thousand people attended the parade on Sunday.