Here are my notes from my daily journal as I walked across America.
How is everything going with you and what are you up to?
We started our walk June 1st at the monument for the minuteman
where the first shot was fired that started the revolution in Concord.
We will be in NY around the 26th of June. We are looking for a place
to park our camper and maybe get picked up and dropped of along my
route for a few days as well as being able to talk to any group of
people interested in what we are doing.
This walk is very hard at times, when I met a young man whose
brother had committed suicide and I share his pain in hopes it will
lighten his burden. There are lighter moments, but these sorrowful
ones are very heavy.
Sun June 7th On my way to California I happened to come across the
Peace Abby and stopped in to see what they were up to as it seems a
lot of peace movements are active and willing to help even if you
still believe that there are times when a war may be just. I don’t
get involved in politics as I don’t have the information to make that
decision. Any decisions I make in those areas are meaningless as I am
ill informed, but I do know and most can agree that our soldiers
coming home need more help to adjust to coming home.
Well while there they showed me a memorial they had for the
unknown civilians who had died in combat. It is a one ton slab of
Granite, engraved on it is, “To the unknown civilians killed in war”.
It is not something that is talked about much, which isn’t surprising
as 90% or better of the people killed in a war are civilians. That
means if 10,000 soldiers lost their lives, over 100,000 civilians are
dead. It seems the people we try to save or protect suffer the most
as a whole, we all suffer the same only with smaller numbers. Our
soldiers seeing this first hand carry this with them for there is no
honor in those deaths as compared to fighting an equal on a
Mon. Blog 3 Walking down lightly traveled roads as compared to being
at the Boston Harbor I still am seen by closed to 2,000 drivers and
have more of a chance to interact with people as I go. I am surprised
at times by the people who stop me, such as the woman in there 70′s
and 80′s to tell me of there Grandsons that are in the Military and
not the same anymore. All experiences have an effect of some sort,
but the experience of war generally doesn’t leave one with a lot of
warm fuzzy feelings. There is a perpetual dark cloud in her life now
as she frets for loved ones whose lives she seems to no longer be part
June 9th tues: On my stroll across this great land it has been brought to my
attention that I maybe insane, it is a question I ask myself usually
at the start of each day. I take this as a good sign that I am sane
for I am told if you think your sane there is a good chance you really
are crazy. When you here the story’s I do and see the broken lives I
do I get impatient for everyday that goes by more good people have
killed themselves, some quickly and others slowly and taking the
innocent down with them. Is it so crazy to want that to change right
now, today instead of waiting and saying in God’s time as families are
Wed: June 11 Today I met a family angry for the premature lose of a husband
and father, a veteran that suffered from agent orange and had to fight
to get benefits and care only to die of cancer. I would think things
like that make it hard for people to believe in there government, they
definitely don’t. Just 10 minutes walking from this encounter I met a
woman in her 60′s that stopped her truck, rolling down her window she
said, I saw your sign it moved me, she paused then said my son killed
himself, it was on the news, she reached out her hand to me, I held it
as she cried. I did nothing but share that moment in silence, who can
console a mothers lose?
June 12, 2010 thursday: On my way through Pomfret I saw a town work crew repairing
a seHow is everything going with you and what are you up to?
We started our walk June 1st at the monument for the minuteman
where the first shot was fired that started the revolution in Concord.
We will be in NY around the 26th of June. We are looking for a place
to park our camper and maybe get picked up and dropped of along my
route for a few days as well as being able to talk to any group of
people interested in what we are doing.
This walk is very hard at times, when I met a young man whose
brother had committed suicide and I share his pain in hopes it will
lighten his burden. There are lighter moments, but these sorrowful
ones are very heavy.ction of the road, they took a moment and check me out, read the
sign and continue to work. When I got to them I ask them if they
would sign our petition, they were silent for a spell then one man
comes up to me snatching it, sayes he will sign it. The other guys
asked him if he needed help spelling his name, getting a laugh, but
they all signed it when the foremen came over askng in a gruff voice,
whats going on here? When I tell him I was a Marine, he said, Semper
Fi, shook my hand and signed. In the interest of being politicaly
incorrect I told them a Marine joke and was about to leave when one of
the guys asked if he could sign too. I said, I’d love for you to
sign…I ment that in a manly way, he said don’t worry. As the
foremen went behind me, he said let me squeeze by, when the other guy
said, in a manly way of course as I walked on to the next town.
June 13,Friday: Walking over a bridge into North Windham a man pulled over in
frount of me, got out of his car and walked towards me, asking if I
was a veteran, I said yes, he asked if I knew anyone that commited
suicide, I said yes. He said, I feel for your lose; are those number
for all wars? I said it is all the soldiers from any war. He said, I
am in the Army Reserves and got out of active duty 2007, your numbers
are squed it is only 2 a week from the present war not 18 a day. They
give us lots of consueling and I still am in it. I said I am not
arguing that they don’t do something, just that it can be improved, he
agreed that there are flaws, wished me luck but, wouldn’t sign the
As I walked away, I wondered was I on a fools mission? Just a few
weeks ago in the Wall St Journel they mentioned the number, wonder why
the numbers seem to be different? If it is only 2 a week and they
have all these programs everyone gets except for the flaw he touched
on briefly which was soldiers lying to get home as soon as possible
when state side, not to mention those getting anything other then an
honarable discharge. Then I thought if it was my son, one death in my
life time would be to many, so I walked on for another ten minutes
when a woman pulled over, got out of her car, stood there looking at
me and crying. Her son had come home on his first leave from overseas
diagnosed with PTSD and was redeployed. She held me in her arms and
cried, how do I tell that woman numbers are squeed, only 2 die a week,
it’s OK? I can not, not walk, what if that was my son? This is the
hardest part of the journey, to look into the eyes of a mother who has
lost or fears to lose a child, the brooken glass, poision ivy, sore
feet and rain are nothing compared to this.
Sat: I am in a little town called Columbia on the green of the
Town Hall when a man wearing a Korean Vet hat and t shirt walks by. I
ask him if he would like to sign our petion, he angrliy asked if I was
one of those sissy Democrates that thinks they can speed their way out
of everything and is afraid of war. I said I am not agruing polotics,
I was a Marine and it looks like we will be fighting a long time. If
we are going to fight we might as well do the right thing by our
soldiers. He apologized, but wouldn’t sign the petition, saying it
wouldn’t do any good any way. This issue isn’t about polotics it’s
about what is right.
June 14, Monday: An overcast day, great for walking through the
bumper crop of pision ivy, the cash crop of the North East. Finding
an American Legion Hall at 10 am with all the flags and a few cars
parked outside, I thought I would drop in and get some signatures for
our cause. Walking up to the door I heard lively discussions going
on, as I walked in and ajusted my eyes to the dark the sound of
silence greeted me and as my eyes focused I saw men looking at me
sideways. I walked up to the bar, looking at each of them I told them
we are gathering signatures for a petition getting mandatory
counseling, they were so still and quite that it was as if I had
stepped into a wax museum. I had dajavou, I saw myself at the pulpit
with the choir present as I delivered my sermon polishing the alter as
I dragged 8oz’s of holy water at a time across it in the belief that
in its comsuption I could wipe out the past. Only to find the next
day it never consumed the past only made it hazy. My sermons all had
the same moral, it’s not my fault, I didn’t do it. When I opened my
mouth to talk to them I know I had invaded their sanctuary, a place
where no action was necessary, I had done the unspeakable, I had
called them to action, peer pressure froze them in place. I left our
petition on their alter giving them a chance to look it over. Leaving
I didn’t hear a murmer till I got out side the door, the politicaly
correct amount of time passed before one is alowed to talk behind ones
I am not against drinking, I am an avocate of priorities, which
is more important, family or ones indulgences?
A piece up the road a woman pulled up behind me and jumping out
of her car with a smile said, I just have to know what you are doing.
After I told her, her smile fadded and she told me she is on a call
line for the church and said with tears in her eyes, I can’t tell you
how many times I get calls from mothers saying, pray that my son comes
home the way he left; it’s never going to happen but I pray. All
things change people, good and bad, it’s not like going to summer camp
for ice cream. She cried and kissed me on the cheek before we parted.
June 15, Tuesday; I start off my day planning my route and carrying a map which I look at so many times during the day that I wear holes in it. I was to make a turn near the center of town to continue on my way across the country. Well at about 10am I find myself in frount of a park and as I get a woman on her coffee break to sign my petition I hear and see a bunch of homeless men drinking and raising hell. I was going to leave without speaking to them, thinking why bother, till one of them waved me back. When I get to them they ask me what I'm doing, when I tell them, they all sign my petition and tell me of their service in the military and the loved ones they lost, gave me money and sent me on my way. One's brother had been in the USMC and came home with no legs only to die of an overdose. Another, a Marine said, You've inspired me to do something cause if you can walk barefoot across America, I can do something. I retraced my steps and realized I almost hit the sign with my head when I passed it the first time. At that moment I realized that I'm never lost I just don't always know where I am and that if God has a plan there isn't anything I'm going to do to change it.
june 16 wed; I was greeted by some of Conn finest local officers who
had gotten a call from a driver that said I was going to committ
suicide. After checking me out and hearing my story they said the
suppport what I do, but are able to sign as they are working. I said,
not to worry, you can go on line and sign up when you are off duty.
One officer told me I should get a pair of shoes. I told him how I
had stopped wearing them as a memorial for those I had know. Now it
is more out of respect for those that have consencrated this ground
with their blood. Not to menshion the tears of all the mothers that
have soaked this country for that blood. That collateral damage where
they don’t shine as bright as they once had for a piece of them has
died as well goes unsaid, but not unnoticed and with out consequences.
A mother walked up to me today and said her boy was home (we
will always be boys to the women that raised us) from the war. He
can’t sleep on a bed with covers over him. She was anxious for him to
be home and he isn’t back yet and he may neverl be the way she
remembered him. I don’t think everything needs a price, what is wrong
with doing the right thing?
2010 JuneThur 17: Having forgotten to take my water this morning I stopped at
a gas station along. It was a beautiful morning and as I opened the
door I greeted the 2 women there with a harty, “It’s another day in
paradise”, usualy an ice breaking remark with total strangers. After
getting my water and turning to the counter their body language was
telling me they were a little aprehensive. I asked if they would like
to sign the petition, at which the counter woman tap danced around a
no and the other looking at her feet saying she was ok. Feeling the
tension of the moment I blurt out the first thing that came to mind in
an attempt to put them at ease, “It’s ok to be afraid”. It seemed to
rachet up the fear level a notch so I figured it was a good time to
About half an hour later when I stopped outside a plumbing store
to get some signatures a man went by turned around and came back to
talk to me. He told me he was a disabled Vet that helped others get
aid from the V.A., he said, “I have something I want to show you that
is very important to me”, he opened his wallet and pulled out a card
for me to look at, “I am very proud of this”, it was his membership
card showing he had been President of the Disabled Veterans in this
area. He said, “They don’t do enough”. I am glad they do anything
for that gives us something to build on, if we only work together.
I told him I am doing this with the sign barefoot to capture
people imagination so that the press will pick up on it to get the
attension. He said, “You’re already creating a splash, I stopped into
the gas station where you got water and the 2 women there were talking
about you saying you wanted them to sign a petition and they thought
you were a little strange. I told them all Veterans are a little
strange. I said I would sign the petition so they said you left 15
minutes ago, so here I am.
All those that have been in the Military are going to be
different then those that haven’t, those that have been in combat will
be different than either one of them. That is because of experience,
how we deal with it and internalize it, it has an effect. So how can
someone that has never had those experience relate to one that has? I
don’t care how many movies you see or books you read it is nothing
like the experience, I get irritated when someone tells me anyone who
signs up for the military knows what they are getting into. Thats
like saying when you drive in a car with your family, you get into an
accident and everyone is killed but you whats the big deal you knew
that accidents happen.
June 18 Friday: Everyday is different and everyone reacts differently
and todays crowd was a tough crowd. I had a lot of women turn me down
and one made me laugh for she said with a smile that she didn’t have a
minute to spare. Who spared a minute for her and does she have a time
account that she can go to and make a withdrawl? I was at a seminar
that said if you ask a person why, usualy their 3rd answer was the
truth, I wonder what the truth was? I don’t care, it doesn’t matter
to me, so what, etc. I would bet anything they think it has nothing
to do with their little world, but it does in so many ways.
A man signing my petition said he had been in ROTC IN 1971 got
switched to active duty but was never sent and had seen some of his
friends die in training. He said, I have flashback and I never even
saw combat, my son was in the Marines, with the first to be in Quat,
when he got home I told him, you think your fine now but, your going
to counseling. His son did and was glad he did. I asked if he wanted
one of my pins, he said, yes, but I wont wear it, then he stepped back
and looked at me and said if you can carry a sign across the country
barefoot, I guess I could wear a pin, and he put it on.
Channel 8 gave us some coverage today, I found it difficut to
try to get everything out in a way that makes an impact in a few
minutes. I am sure they will cut it up and show a minute if I am
lucky and I am gratefull for anything I get to help make a difference.
Valeria and I shared our lunch with 2 homeless women who had
come over seeing our camper with thelongwalkhome printed on the side.
One’s husband had been a Marine who died several years ago in his late
50′s of a heart condition and after a few months of not paying rent
found herself and dog out on the street. The other was missing a leg,
her husband died while she was in rehab and found herself a tent to
live in that she shared with her new found friend. Am I streching to
think that her husband had died as a cause of agent orange, if he
didn’t would she be homeless today, more unessecary colateral damage.
When I see homeless people I am uncomfortable that that could happen
in this country, where I was brought up that we were number 1, the
best; is this what the best does, how can this be?
I also got a call from Jennifer, a 23 year old whose website is
who offers programs for vets giving them alternative
methods to deal with the stress when they get home. She is an
inspiration to me, to be so young, see a need and do something about
it, she gives me hope.
Sat june 19: Today one of the things that struct me is the number of
angry young veterans who cursed at me and give me the finger. I
understand their anger as I had whalloed in it for years blaming
everyone else. When I got discharged getting home I saw the world in
a different way. Maybe I wasn’t niave as I had been before, saw the
world in a different way and focused on all the things outside of my
self. If only all of that would change everything would be alright.
I didn’t realize nothing had changed and I could find anything I
wanted around me to make me right. The real change came about for me
when I went within, that is all I have the power for. If we give
those coming back the tools to look inside, the guidance and support
they have a better chance. I understand their anger, I was angry for
33 years and it didn’t do a bit of good
.Sun. june 20: I walk through a surreal area reminding me of a Mad Max
movie, closed factories that take up blocks with the windows busted
out and garbage of all types strewn about. Homeless wondering the
streets, seemingly aimless, shrouded in the smell of urine and
alcohal. From there I walk through an area where I got lost and no
one I walk up to understode English. It is a third world country
within our bordors. This is what our soldiers fight to protect, fewer
opertunityes, closed factories and a country that is split into
I have heard that there are 400,000 homeless in the our country
of which supposedly 20 to 40% are veterans, depending on whose study
you look at. If that is the case, it looks like a majority of them
migrate to Conn. for the summer. A lot of people see the homeless as
people who have given up, I wonder if it isn’t us who have given up on
them by allowing our children to come home from a war, not preparing
them for the civilian world and offering them work?
June 21 Monday This morning before my feet hit the pavement as I was
about to be dropped off where I ended yesterday our, “take one” box
blew off the side of the camper. By the time we turned around to go
retrieve it an man had stopped to pick them up and when I got there he
told me the only reason he stopped was because if he didn’t pick them
up now he would be doing it later. I thanked him and told him that
the forms were our petitions and what they were for. He barked at me,
we didn’t get anything when we came back from Nam. I said I didn’t
want it to happen again. I thought to myself just because there was
an injustice over 40 years ago doesn’t mean we should repeat it
because we went through it, is that fair? I asked him to sign it, he
grumbled and left angrily as he left rubber on the road.
Not more then 30 minutes later as I was massaging the pavement
with my feet I came upon a foreigner who was singing a prayer as he
read his book. I thought all life is a spiritual journey because I
live my life according to my beliefs which I hold to be truths, I hope
my truths change until I have “The Truth”. The man that was angry,
his truth was that he was done wrong and he was but, till he can
except any responsibility he will be trapped. That was me years ago
and people that meet me would wish evil upon me which didn’t matter
for no one could hurt me more then I hurt myself, I had to be with me
24/7 they only had brief encounters.
Today I had people blow me off and for some reason I wanted to
say, I hope your son goes to war. I stopped myself for they had
never had the experience of having lost a loved one needlessly and I
hoped they never do, how do I get them to understand that feeling so
they can support those tdo?
June 22, 2010
iHi Ron. Great to meet you yesterday although it was brief. Here is the PDF of today’s Hour newspaper. Thanks for everything yesterday and good luck Ron —AlexAlex von Kleydorff/Photographer
The Hour Publishing Co.
The Hour/The Stamford Times/The Wilton Villager
Photo Desk, 1-203-354-1022
The Hour Newspapers
346 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
Thurs June 24: Almost at the end of my walk as I look across the
street a young man is staring at me, when I make eye contact he runs
across the street to me as if nothing else in the world existed. When
he got to me he said, were you in Viet Nom. I said, no. His
shoulders saged, he got quite, saying he was in Hano as his eyes
stopped searching mine for an answer I couldn’t give him. As I looked
at him I realized he was a Viet Nomies with a look in his eyes I had
seen one other time while diving for bodies off a boat that sank. I
was unable to find the bodies, the family came to talk to me, they
wanted to know, but I was unable to put their hopes and fears to rest;
they had the same look in their eyes. The civilians in a war are the
only group in the race without a pony.
Fri June 25: Today I didn’t walk, but I happened to be in Manhassatt
with a friend of mine, a upscale neighborhood where we check out the
senior prom location. It seems they save for 4 years and the parents
work 2 weeks on bringing a theme to life for the prom. The purpose is
the protect the children from themselves with drinking, drugs and teen
pregnancy. It seemed alien to me to spend that kind of money and time
on a one time deal, I didn’t grow up in that time or neighborhood.
How ironic the parents band together to protect one anothers children
and in a matter of a year or two it seems all that is forgotten as a
few go to and come home from war’s and there is no safty net to catch
them as large as the ones Mothers and Fathers banding together can
Sat June 26 I am near the Yankee Stadium which is sheer noise and a
mass of humanity. I am talking to a couple to get directions and
about our cause which they endorse by signing the petition when a
young man comes runnig up to us. He politly waits till they were done
and says that he saw me pass the resturant he was in waiting to be
served, seeing the website he looked it up. Soon as he finished
reading it he ran out to catch me to sign the petition and thank me
for what I was doing saying it was an honor to shake my hand.
Sun June 27 Today I walked Riverside Dr and come upon a sanitation
worker with a sour puss as he cleans up dog fecus, he spots me so I
walk over and talk to him about our cause, saying why and ask him to
sign. He says yes and tells me about his time in the National Guard
and the feeling of being discarded when his time was up. He says he
should be doing what I am and that I made his day as I leave him with
a smile on his face.
At the Trump Towers the doorman comes out and asks what I am up
to, after I tell him he signs and says he was Marine Force Recon.
I am at the Intrepid being filmed when the Security Guards come
and ask if I am protesting, I tell them no and what I am doing, they
agree with what we are doing and walk back to their building. Leaving
there I run into 2 clusters of Cops and talking with them they sign
the petition and one was a Marine who got out resently. A man at the
park was playing the bag pipes, I asked if he would play the Marine
Corps Hym, he did and I cried as the music went through me.
Finaly I made it to Ground Zero and wondered how our world has
changed? I am in a generation that will have known the USA before 911
and the oil spill, what will the generation after me have to say to
the generation following them about an America that is alien to them?
June 28: I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time which
was unlike anything I had expected. The view was phenominal, a nice
breeze and I didn’t get that sence of being insignifacant by the sheer
mase of size and numbers in the city. Only on the bridge for minutes
I met my first skinhead. As he was coming close with his shirt off,
shaven head and tattoo’s across his stomach as well as all overI
thought he was a fighter When he came closer I was staring at his
stomach to see what it said, being almost legaly blind in most states
that was pretty close. When I was close enough which was about 4 to 6
feet I saw that it said “fuck the world”. Thinking he might not be a
fighter I looked up into his face and knew he wasn’t as I could feel
hate and rage eminate out from him. He yelled something at me which I
thought was Russian so I greeted him in Polish. He looked at me
confused so I said I thought you were Russian or Polish since I didn’t
undrstand you. He walked away so I went on. The next instant he runs
up to me, looks into my eyes and yells repent, I said I am. then he
yelled pray to xxxx (a name I didn’t understand) then left. I hadn’t
felt so much rage in years, how had his parents showed up, who were
Not far from there I met an African woman who saw the sign,
looked at me and said they will open their eyes in hell. I thought,
they already were in hell. A Korean Vet told me they should tough it
out he did and anyway they get paid a lot more then he did so that’s
just to bad. I stopped into a deli for a drink and talked to the two
owners who were Muslim and we talked a little religion and politics.
We agreed on almost everything and I said it was to bad it seems we
spend so much time focusing on our differences and not out
similarities. They gave me $60, I hadn’t asked and was surprised they
gave when others I thought would, didn’t.
June 29: Communication and how they are taken is probably the root of
most fights. My skills are poor as I have trouble getting out clearly
what I want people to understand, especialy in a relationship with a
woman. One of my biggest faults is that I have expectations of those
I am closely involved with, not acknowledging what they do expecting
them to read my mind. Just like my relationship with my
representatives, I expect them to do the right thing and know what
that is. When my relationship with them is for them to do what I tell
them. Since I hadn’t told them what to do they do what ever they
want. The corporations understand this, that is why they have lobyist
to tell them what they want as well as send gifts; why do I act
surprised when they do what the corporations want?
June 30: A man on the road crew on Staten Island told me as he was
working a man came out of his house to ask about fixing the flood on
his road when it rained heavy. He told him to go to the city hall,
the man said I work for the city, I am a cop. He said it hadn’t
helped and went on to say that he had been in the military then became
a cop when he got home and was at 9/11 where he got cancear and the
state was trying to buy him off for $12,000. The road worker was so
ashamed and he said I wanted to help, but what could he do. He was
discouraged with what seemed a break down in the system. I get that
sence from a lot of people that the system just doesn’t seem to work
unless you have lots of money or conections.
June 31: I got an email saying my going barefoot is a cry for help.
I thought about it, and yes it is a cry for help. I am asking for
your help in the form of a letter, starting a support group in your
neighborhood, changing the way you think or operate in your world
making a difference. Even if that change is for one person or one
letter, it is a change that changes the world.
July1: When you take the route we do through the little towns you
see lots of churchs and cemetaries. They are almost like museams, a
memory of a time long gone for they are mostly empty and the
cemetaries are visited infrequently. It was the cornor stone with
which our country was built and now it seems inconsequencel. Are we
evoling or are we off coarse? The banks and Mall are well maniquired
and full of life, is this the direction we have gone or is it just the
observations of a man walking across the country?
July 2: I came up to a group of young men, maybe 16yrs old or 17,
happy without a care in the world, maybe it was an air of nievity.
How quick that could change if they were sent 1,000′s of miles away to
endure stress they weren’t raised for. In a few years what would
those faces look like.
July 3 As I walked by an adult home a man smoking a cigerret and
drinking coffee waved me over and asked what I was doing. After I
told him he said, I believe in what you are doing for I have PTSD and
have been going to counseling for it for 30 years. I asked him about
it, he said, “I won’t go there”, then proceeded to tell me about all
his friends stories about PTSD. He said he can’t sleep or talk about
his past, so how can he ever come to terms with it if he will never
speak about it?
Sat July 3rd Walking to Neshamic in NJ a young man pulls over hops
out of his car comes across the street and asks me what I am up to. I
tell him what I am doing and why and he shares that he was in the Army
already taking medication for PTSD and how they ignored him and
discharged him. He told me his brother is in the Marines. I said
make sure he gets the programs that they have to help him make the
transition. I tell him I don’t blame anyone but myself for what is
going on for I had allowed it to happen and now I am doing my best to
change things. We shook hands and he left signing our petition.
When I arrived back to the camper after roasting my soles
Valeria told me I just got an email.It read as follows; I was just
discharged from the military recently, 6 by 2, I haven’t cried in 8
years. Even after my father’s passing 6 years ago, I just held it in…
I cried today.
Thank you and God speed.
July 4: It was close to 100 today, a good day for a force march.
After I got done walking we went to the Deleware River where George
Washington crossed on Dec 26th. We even had George Washington (the
actor) sign it, I wonder what he would do today if he was here and how
bad of an issue was it. His army was mostly untrained farmers
fighting for freedom of religion and taxation. When you fight for you
and your families life does that lessin the stress inducded by war?
July 5 Another 100 degree day, walking is like cooking bacon. In
Lambertville I met a husband and wife that after hearing about our
petition and where I was headed they wanted to pray over me, I said
OK, after they were done he said we want to give you something but, we
have no money on us. I said, that’s alright for you have given me a
pray and your signature and we parted our ways. A few miles up the
road they pull up besides me and get out saying we’re glad we found
you, we found this money in the car and want you to have it for a
meal. They got back in their car and left, those are the people that
are my hero’s.
Tues July 6: I started late which makes a difference in a heat wave
giving the asphalt more time to heat up, the difference on your
toaster from light to burnt. At the end of the day we brought our
camper to get the air conditioner repaired and while there I talked to
a customer. He wondered why I did what I was doing, was it to write a
book, make money, get attension, was it all ego based? I said if
writting a book helped to get the attension and money to realize my
dream I would do it and I don’t care if I get credit for doing it,
long as it gets done. He asked what he could do that would make a
difference. I said we all have something that we feel strongly about,
do that, it may not be glourious but, at least you won’t die saying I
should have and you never know about the lives you touch by how you
Wed July 7: Walking past a little shopping center a guy with Marine
Corps plates steps out of his car saying that sign is a little hard to
miss, what are you doing? I tell him and say that I allow people to
talk about things they are afraid to tell others and it seems to help
when they can talk about it. He told me that he has been fortunate in
business so when ever he travels and sees a soldier coming home he
buys him a meal so that he will know someone cares. We both agreed
that when they come home they have changed because of their
experiences and have trouble sharing with others because they think
that no one else would, or it isn’t something that is talked about,
but if it isn’t talked about it may fester.
Thur July 8: Minding my own business walking down the wrong road a
cop pulls up and asks me where I am going, I say to California, he
said not this way. I show him my map then he explains that I hadn’t
made it to that spot yet because the with the two towns here it is
hard to know where one starts and the other ends. He signs the
petition after we talk about the suicides, saying it seems the
government wants to close its eyes to what is going on. He tells me
his daughter is in the Army, she joined when she was 25 so she is more
mature then a lot of the others. They have fire watch like we had
when I was in, but now one of the reasons is to ensure that they don’t
try to hurt themselves.
Fri July 9: This part of Penn was a little frustrating for me as I
want to go in a straight line from point A to B and that wasn’t
happening as I had to go North and East to go South and West. The
houses I pass with acres of mowed lawns would make a golf course if 3
yards were put together. In a narrow part of the road a woman stopped
dead in the road to ask me what I was doing as the driver behind her
laid on his horn from way back and tore around her. I remember when
the world evolved around me and anything that interfeared, I would
think, “What were they thinking”? She said, boy he was angry after I
waved her off the road. I told her what we are doing and she said she
was inspired to tell her friends.
Further down the road I was interviewed by channel 69 whose
cameraman’s son shares my birthday, Nov. 11. We talked about how
having a child changed our lives and the feeling we got when they
would come running to us calling us Dad, feeling like a hero. I said
when I was young my father wanted me to be his hero for he would tell
me what to do and not to do, but he didn’t do it. I had wanted him to
be my hero by showing me, not telling me. It would be nice if our
leaders could be our hero’s again.July 10 Sat: I walked in the rain all day and was gratefull for the
change. I had a counseler sign the petition who told me that the
Marines are prescreening the recruits to see if they would be prone to
PTSD. How is that possible as a human being; we are basicaly built
the same in that extreme stress has an effect as well as any new
experience having an impact. You add coming home to no job and a
broken relationship, that’s a recipe for disaster. Then he went on to
say that they are calling this Obama’s War, I cut in and said no this
is our War, did we elect politicians to use them as scapegoats so we
can be victums and not be responsible? I am America, we are America,
if we were all doing the right thing we wouldn’t have this problem,
aren’t we the Government?
July 11 Sun: There are more churchs then bars in this area, one town
is called Church Town and it lives up to its name. Most business’s
are closed like the old days all the houses are well kept and the
lawns manicured and the only people working are those milking cows and
ministers preparing service.
As I walk past one of these homes there is a man on his porching
sitting as if a King looking out over his domain with a smile on his
face. I ask if he would sign our petition, he waves me off as if he
was interupted by a peasant. I think what a way to thank his men for
his slice of heaven when a few steps away I read one of the billboards
in frount of a church. It reads, He who has the Lord needs nothing
else. I wonder to myself, are they saying that before or after they
already have a family, food, water and shelter? That is an easy
statement to make after you have all you need, what about these men
and women coming home to no job and having lost their family. Are
they the saints, living under bridges having lost all, but God?
Another few blocks and I get a group of men by a Motel to sign
and they tell me how a local church put together some money to get a
room for a young man who has come home from the war and been unable to
find work for 2 months. Is there anything wrong with having the
barest necessities such as food and a roof over ones head or are those
unnesacery to one that has God? I think the God they talk of is the
one that greets you at death when we have no need of anything. Maybe
it isn’t so much that people lose faith in God but, faith in their
fellow man that say they believe in God. If I believed in God how
could I let this happen to my fellow man?July 12 Mon: In Lancaster I thought I got lost, passed a store
and went back to it which is something I rarely do. I do not like to
waste steps and back tracking would fit that catagory, but it seemed
like the right thing to do. Going inside the cashier, a small Indian
woman looked at me funny when I put some fruit on the counter and
asked to use the bathroom. She said, No, it’s not for public use. I
replied that I was on foot walking across the country and described
the petition. Her expression changed and she said, I have to let you
use the bathroom. When I came out she said, you should hate me, I
have judged you, I said, I don’t. Then she cried, my son is 16 years
old and in prison for life without parole, he’s a good boy, he didn’t
kill anyone. You give me hope, to keep fighting for my son, don’t you
quite on me. I cried and said I wouldn’t, she said, I know you wont,
then she kissed me before I left.
I realize now that I am never lost, I just may not always know
where I am. This walk has become more then getting people to sign a
petition, it is about giving hope and letting people know someone
cares.July 13 Tues: A man was standing outside a resturant, taking a break
from working. I approached him telling him what we were doing, he
didn’t want to sign because he didn’t want to get involved. If you
live in this country, weather or not you like it, your involved. A
block from here another man said, not today; I said there is no
tomorrow and he looked at me, startled.
July 14 Wed It rained all day, due to modifications on my sign I was
able to stay drier and keep the petition from getting soaked. Meet a
young man working at the gas station with a Marine Corps pin on and I
asked who he had in, he replied, hopefully me. He was at that man boy
stage where every thing is new, exciting with no down sides. I asked
him to look at our site, hopefully by the time he goes in we will have
our points in place so that he will be able to return home more
capable to take advantage of programs the government offers after
July 15 Thur: Walking through a small section of York where it seemed
the memo never made it about keeping Penn beautiful, the sidewalk was
littered with broken glass, strewn with garbage and you could smell
urine. A young black man came over to me to ask who are Vets, I told
him they were soldiers. Then he asked why are they commiting suicide,
I told him because they have done and seen things they never thought
they would, they have killed and then have to deal with it. Then come
home unable to get a job, lose their family and lose hope. He said,
word, I know what your talking about, I have killed and know what your
talking about, it’s something you’ve done and can’t put it back, you
wished you could. He signed and then brought it over to his friends
sitting in their car, men and women, black and white drunk, still
drinking, blasting music at 6am, counting a wad of cash and had them
all sign. It seems he was the big dog on the block, anyone coming our
way came up to show him respect before they went on.
July 16 Fri: I walked into a road crew of 3 men troweling a pour of
concrete to the curb on a new expansion of highway. After having told
them what I was doing they all signed it. When I walked away the
foreman walked with me and said, my son commited suicide, he wasn’t in
the military, he found his girl cheating on him. I said, it is easier
to except one dying of an illness or an accident but, when they die
from suicide the family carries guilt and blames themselves that it
was their fault. He nodded his head in agreement.
You don’t have to be in the military or the family of one in the
military to experiences all those feelings. You just have to be
human, we are all alike, it doesn’t do any good to make it seem that
only military personnel experience PTSD. They aren’t broken, they are
just a person dealing with overwhelming experience. Just like us they
need to know they aren’t alone and someone cares. It is a myth that
anyone comes home unwounded from a war.
July 17 Sat. I came upon a yard sale and asked for water, they gave
me water, food and money after I told them what I was doing. What it
was all about was off there radar screen, they had no relatives in the
military, it didn’t seem to effect their daily life, and they knew of
no one that committed suicide. As we talked they said they couldn’t
imagine what our young men and women go through and you would think
that the people that would be in the streets for change would be the
survivors of those that committed suicide. I said the reason they
aren’t is because they carry the burden of guilt, shame, thinking it
is somehow their fault and it is taboo to talk about. Well I think we
better start talking because the figures are higher then published
because they are hidden by untimely deaths, accidents, and other
We must help them by reaching out to them, letting them know
someone cares, giving them hope. The strong help the innocent and
naive, the weak take advantage of them.
July 18 Sunday; We made a detour and went to Shanksville to speak at
Flight 93 Memorial Church. Father Al put us up in his house, feed us
and had a place for the camper. I was impressed by his passion for
the people that had died on that flight, he devoted his life to make
sure they are not forgotten. To stand at the site then go to the
church one makes a connection with those passengers, putting a life I
July 19 Monday; We spent the day with Father Al and went to the site of Flight 93's crash.
July 20 Tuesday; In the little town of Fairfield PA I was invited by
the police to the town office. I always enjoy and good invitation,
when I arrived they wanted to know what was up. This is where I
learned that their concern was that I might be soliciting without a
permit. I had told them I was getting signatures to a petition and
told her why she raced out of the room and came back red eyed to sign
the petition. She had said she was an Army Brate and had dated a lot
of messed up servicemen.
Channel 8 interviewed me then the cameraman shared that his
brother and nephew had been over in Desert Storm, it had an effect.
They are both doing OK, but have changed.
July 21 Wed: Leaving Fairfield PA I walked down a road so wyndie
that I had to slow down and I am on foot. It was a beautiful road
with hardly any traffic. One of the few people I met told me that his
friend had recently been killed by a veteran who had come back and had
a flashback. He sat there in his truck and slowly shook his head as
he quietly said, he didn’t even know that he had killed him. This
epidemic we have reaches to places you think would be safe from the
reaches of a war most of us don’t even hear about.
At the end of my day when I get a chance I like to go to a movie,
for the change of pace, escape reality and the air conditioning.
After buying my tickets I talked to two women asking what they were
seeing and as usual I get around to asking them to sign the petition.
One of the women said, my friends son had come home safe from the war
then recently committed suicide. How many people do I pass on the
street who are directly impacted by these soldiers? They don’t have
any special look, they seem normal, it could be anybody.
This weekend Valeria and I will be speaking on the steps of the
Capitol, both Saturday and Sunday, if you are in the neighborhood or
have family or friends nearby please drop by.
July 22 Early this morning as my feet get damp with dew a car pulls
over and the woman in it wants to know what I am doing. She is
looking for an answer, for hope, you see her son has just come home
from the War and is having a hard time of it. She is a nervous happy
for at least she can see someone cares and is doing something no
matter how small it is. These are the people that stop in the middle
of traffic because they have a major investment in this issue their
As I end my walk at a picnic bench under an awning where several
men are sitting, one gets up and walks away as I say what I am doing,
he is annoyed, saying I am a Vet, I said so am I. I understand his
annoyance as he is one of the many unappreciated that is an asset to
America. The ones we don’t acknowledge because we expect it of them,
that is what they are supposed to do. How long does one stay in a
relationship if day after day they go unnoticed?
July 23 Friday: Today I stopped at a yard sale where after signing
the petition she told me it was going to be 100 degrees and gave me a
bottle of water. I thanked her for the water and said thanks for
telling me the temperature. It seems if I don’t know how hot it is it
doesn’t bother me as much because I’m not thinking about it. Just
like if I am not remined of a painfull or tramatic situation from the
past it doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t come up.
I stopped at another yard sale, one of those held in desperation,
they need to pay the rent. Two families moved in together so there
are 6 kids and 4 adults in a one family house, inside it looked like
an explosion at a Kids are Us store. One man is out of work, the
other a 42 year old vet that has had several heart attacks and is
fighting to get his veteran benefits. The American Dream.
A 100 yards away a woman pulls over all excited, jumps out and
says is this about the Veteranians because of the virus found in both
the cats and dogs fessies that cause depression and suicide. I said
no it is about the soldiers. After I said that her eyes got wide, I
could see she was covered in goose bumps and started to cry as she
said over and over again, God, I am so sorry, God, I am so sorry.
This is awefull, I was supposed to be here to hear this, I am so
sorry, what you are doing is so important.
July 24 Saturday; We spoke on the lawn before the capitol, the seat
of power in this country. It was 105 degrees where the only people
that came were tourist that happen to pass by and those that came
because they were in the event. People are sick an tired of hearing
about Veterans and their plight because it is embarasing to them and
most people don’t have a big investment in it, like an immediate loved
I can’t get passionate about something until I feel it affects me
and there are so many causes out there that I have to prioritize them.
I feel that suicide is one of the major underlying issues that
effects all others because it is an attitude that going unchecked will
make it impossible to save a whale, the planet or anything else
because how we feel about ourselves and one another reflects in all
things around us. What I see doesn’t look too good.
July 25 Sunday: We have friends taxing us around at a big
inconvenience to themselves and they wished they could do more. When
I speak to an empty lawn, I speak to those that believe in me, because
they matter to me.
A teenager came up to me after I spoke and said, I just wanted the
honor of shaking your hand. It mattered to him.
July 26 Monday: We stopped in a bloom grocery store on the way back
to where I stopped walking. The Deli manager and I talked and when I
told her what I was doing she cried. She said I was born into a
military family, my father and grandfather were in the military and I
worked for Lockheed for 17 years. 2 years after 9-11 my son who was
still in school said, I’m going to be just like you and go into the
military. She said she was shocked because they would take my little
boy and kill him just like they dragged our three soldiers through the
streets and hung them on a bridge. The next day she quite and her son
asked why and she said I don’t want you to go.
July 27 Tues: In West Virgina I was surprised about how resistant or
negative so many people were today. One lady wanted to call the
police another man said they shouldn’t get anything his brother-in-law
didn’t they joined the service to get a job just like him (he is
working on a road crew, if they are shooting at him I don’t want to
work for this town). I asked if he was in, he said, no, so I left him
with his veins popping out of his neck and his eyes bulging. I know
he feels it is unfair that his brother in law didn’t get anything, but
that doesn’t make it right to Deni help to anyone else.
Up the road I meet a man pruning trees, he was a Green Beret who
was one of the first 242 over in Nom. He or his brother in laws didn’t
get any help , one who had committed suicide, but he said, something
should be done for these boys, they shouldn’t have to go through that.
Not to far down the road 3 men where repairing fence, I asked them to
sign, it was quite for a moment then the youngest said, Hell yes I’ll
sign that, my buddy came home from Afghanistan and is all messed up.
The other two signed, one of them had been silent the whole time then
said his son came back and committed suicide last year.
If this was a virus killing more then 1 person every 10 miles it
would be an epidemic and our country would throw so much money at it
you thought it grew on trees. It’s the silent epidemic no one talks
about that is eroding the very fabric of this nation.
July 28 Wed: On my path this morning Imet a State Trooper from the
State of Virginia. They recieved a call, someone said that I was
going to commit suicide. He read my sign and said, it seems they
didn’t read the whole thing. We talked awhile, he said, I love my
job, I get to help people in crisis, it may not be one to me, but to
them it is. I said I was glad he could see it that way because I want
people to be able to see that with our military, a large number of
people in crisis. Most of America doesn’t seem to understand what
these soldiers go through when they get home, they don’t share that
A little further on my path I stopped a man as he was putting
tools in his car and asked him to sigh. He said, I had two sons in
the USMC I will sign, they’ve never been the same, it ain’t right.
When I looked in his eyes it seemed there was a hallow spot. The last
person to realize they have a problem is them, everyone else knew
along time ago. You will never be the same again, but we can get help
to cope with the situation.
July 29 Thur: We are in Middleville VA and it is beautiful, hot and a
lot of factories alongside of Revelutionary History. A man told me
how when he was just a kid ridding his bike a veteran drove up to him
putting a gun in his face screaming he could kill him for ridding on
his property. Another testamonial for some attitude readjustment when
our loved ones get home. Also today I had a lot of media support and
people coming out of their homes to sign as I walked by.
It is a big contrast to a few days ago where people ignored me
and gave me lame excuses. One woman had said to me, I don’t sign
petitions, but I am with you. After she hurried off I wondered how is
she with me, is she walking with me, is she calling a politician, is
she going to a rally, is she helping someone through a hard time who
lost a loved one, is she donating, is she setting up a speaking
engagement? Or is she at my favorite podium the bar saying someone
should do something about this, thinking she isn’t someone?
July 30, 2010
Here are a few suggestions for organizations that might be interested
in supporting you.
http://www.dbsalliance.org- Depression, Bi-polar support alliance
http://www.nami.org- National Association of Mental illnesses
http://www.iava.org- “Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America”
http://www.afsp.org- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org- They advocate a lot for depression screening
http://www.depressiontribe.com- Very large blog and forum for people with
Maybe some of these align more with what we are doing, but I think
they are also relevant to your specific cause. I would also suggest
starting a facebook fan page. Its great for updating people on where
you are and for posting pictures.
I just went out today and bought more walking gear to get started. I
am training and got up to 7.5 miles; I hope to hit 10 miles tomorrow
Take care and keep in touch.
The Walk to Washington
P.O. Box 220183
Saint Louis, MO 63122
July 30 I usualy have extremes on my walk and today was one of the
greatest. First a religious woman gave me 20 for our cause. She is
of the opinion that prayer is one thing that people can say without
having to make a scrafice and it is another prayer to back up those
words with an effort. It is more powerful then the first. She did
not preach to me for she sees God’s hand in what I do.
Not to far from there I stopped at a yard sale to ask for water.
Telling them why I was walking with a sign he told me he had been a
POW and if I was raising money to assinate that nigger president he
would be glad to give. He said it with a smile that said he was
serious as a heart attack. It doesn’t get much more opposite then
that.July 31 Walking the mountains reminded me of being home on the coast
where I could look out over the ocean and get a sence of vastness that
I don’t get in cities. Also it is quiter and the pace doesn’t give
Out of this peace I was visited by two men in a truck that
started to preach to me. How the true Lord will come and wipe out all
those that believe in the false lord, the one that worships money. It
seemed all the politicians were on that list. I asked what have they
done to help their brothers that have gone down the wrong path, they
said preach. I said why don’t you show them by how you show up, if
you love everyone why wouldn’t you want to save them? It seems odd to
me if they don’t worship money how could they have on new cloths
driving a new truck and not give to support what I do after they said
they believe in it? I know homeless people that would think they
A woman stopped her car thanking me saying how her son had died a
year ago in Afganistain, wonder what he would have been like had he
lived. Half a mile from here I approach 2 men in a car with the air
conditioner running, they roll down the window when I asked and when I
told them what I was doing they rolled up their window. I wished that
they could see the mother I had just met and tell her they would
rather not sigh the petition.
Aug 1 This is an email I got today from a woman in WV. I saw Ron
walking this week down US Rt 11 in WV. I was wondering what was going
on. Our newspaper ran an article today regarding Ron’s quest for the
veterans. As my family is preparing for my husband to be deployed in 4
weeks, I feel closer to this bill than I probably would otherwise.
This is scary and I want my family intact!
I asked a man to sign the petition, he said no, but I support it.
I asked how, he said, I vote. I wish that was enough.
Aug 2 On a grassy strech a young woman did a u turn and told me her
mother is a nurse that works for the VA as she fights to keep from
crying. What you are doing is something that has to be done, one of
our boys didn’t make it home alive, the people of this area lined up
both side of highway 11 for 5 miles to honor him. I am proud that
this town came out for him. Now it is time for us to come out for
those that come home only to die here because of the war, by reaching
out to those families. To help those that carry a burden of guilt and
shame by letting them talk and tell them it isn’t their fault, I had
shared in that fault by standing by silently.
August 3 Tuesday; I approached 2 men in their truck as they stopped
at an intersection and asked them to sign the petition which they did
gladly. As they were signing the one man told me his son was home on
leave from the Army after 3 months in boot camp. He said while his
son was in training 2 men had hung themselves and another had blown
his head off while at the rifle range.
I also ran into an WWII veteran who said he wasn’t given anything
when he got out. Part of the problem is that when soldiers get out
they don’t ask for anything feeling they don’t deserve it because they
are alive and many of the friends aren’t. It is something that should
be given without asking for we only hurt the future of the country if
those going to run it aren’t given everything we can to make them a
great success. Do you have to ask for your pay check every week and
Tonight we are staying with a Marine who served during Korea. He
sought us out to help others get what he did not.
Wed Aug 4; Today was a day where a few people had stopped to tell me
to keep up the good work. A woman stopped her car and ran across
traffic to tell me she works as a nurse in the physic dept of the
government. Suicide is becoming an epidemic because our society
doesn’t speak about causing it to go unresolved and unexposed. If I
don’t turn the light on in the dark the boogieman has a place to
August 5 Thur: Spoke at Veterans for Peace breakfast meeting outside
of Stanuton. I was impressed not by the size of the group which was 6
men, not by their age which was 60 to 80 and not by how long they had
been at it which was 10 years. I was impress by all that combined
with the fact that they were flexable and open enough to try something
else and haven’t given up.
They told us they had tried, forums, letters to the editors and
were getting no where, what should they do. I said, everyone is sick
of talk and what good does it do to judge someone after the fact? I
said, if you want to do something help those that don’t have peace get
it, start a support group. They are chapter 077 and are listed on our
resource page, help them make a difference.
Met a fellow Marine in Stanton at Wrights and as we talked he
said, one thing in the Marine’s you may get shot up but you know
someone is coming back for you cause were not leaving anyone behind.
August 6 Fri: Spoke to 6 boys ranging in ages 15 to 18 at a reform
school. They sat there tough with their arms crossed smirks and shit
eating grins. As I looked at them seeing myself, angry and defiant,
how long ago was it my best friend went away and I stayed behind
because I wasn’t caught?
I told them I was where they were once and blamed my parents, my
teachers, church, government and anyone but me. Now I know that I was
a victum and could never do anything until I took responsibility for
my actions. I asked if they had any questions, it was silent as they
looked at one another for that unspoken approval. Then I said, you
may just think I am just some crazy old guy going barefoot and maybe I
am, but I care and am doing what I think is right. I appreciate that
you even took the time to listen to me, thank you. Walking outside
one of the boys followed me, gave me his hat and said I know what you
are talking about because I go for counseling, thank you. After him
one of the directors came out and thanked me, saying I have a couple
that think the world owes them, they needed to hear what you had to
August 7 Sat: People stopped me on street to thank me, sign the
petition and gave me money to continue. A WWII Vet stopped me, saying
I am glad someone is finaly doing something, then he cried. I stopped
at a church yardsale where everyone signed and a little girl was the
only one that hugged me and gave me her money.
August 8 Sun; Only walked a few hours so that I was able to make it
to a church where we were invited to speak. They allowed me 5
minutes, but didn’t realize I didn’t have a watch. Either I managed to
stay within 5 minutes or they were very polite. I asked them to help
me heal America by starting support groups for those that have loved
ones overseas or have lost a loved one to suicide. I said I want your
prayer to be your signature. I told them when I used to tell someone
I would pray for them it was so I could ease my conscience from doing
nothing else to help them. Whose prayer is more powerful the one that
prays in a room alone or the one that waits on the one people are
August 9th Monday; I am on some rural roads headed toward Roanoke VA
from Lexington. Today I encountered a man who I thought was coming
out of his house to see me only to find out he was headed to his car.
Talking to him he held both hands up timidly saying he was afraid he
could not sign it. His voice had an odd quality so I asked if he had
ephenzima, he said, no, then raised his head so I could see his
tracheotomy. Walking away, I thought whatever I fear I give more
power, by resisting it I make it real or larger then it is.
Another man I encountered said what do you do about people that
attack you. I said I forgive them and can agree with them when I see
it as they do,then they have nothing to attack, if I fight them they
Aug 10 Tues: Strolling on route 10 alongside route 81 it reminds me
of a time when we didn’t lock our doors and all seemed right with the
world. Then I thought there were also bad times back then but, I seem
to remember the good first. If I only remembered the bad, it would
seem there is no hope.
Walking along a state hwy then getting off on to a road with no
shoulder I am distruping traffic and all of a sudden a cop comes up
behind me with his lights flashing. As he pulls up with his window
rolled down, he hands me a cold water and says God bless you with a
look of gratitude that took me off guard and went on his way.
August 11 Wed: As the day wears on and the temperature rises we look
for a shady place to part the camper and it is a bonus if we can get
electric and water. Today I went to a church, the conventional type
with the minister wearing a suit and tie and a secretary to screen his
calls. Going in sweaty, smelly, barefoot covered in road dirt I tell
the secretary what we are doing and what we could use. To help
convince her I show her the article in the paper that was just given
to me by a local. She looked at me a little different and said she
would show the minister and ushered me in.
Talking to the minister I told him at times I question my sanity
for what I am doing. He replied, I don’t question yours I question
Aug 12 Thur: I just went to a gas station and told them what I was
doing after I bought a drink. She said, I won’t sign it, I said OK,
may I use your bathroom, she said no, it isn’t for public use. I was
the most unfriendly encounter with a gas station I have had since I
started walking. So I left and had thought about asking for my money
back on the drink as I sometimes can’t understand why people aren’t as
passionate about this cause as I am. Going across the street standing
there tring to make sense of my map as the streets aren’t lining up
with what I have in my hand, a woman pulls over with two little girls
in car seats in the back. She said, is that true, I said yes, would
you like to sign our petition. She said, yes, I also asked her if she
would like to donate, she said she didn’t have any money. There was a
tiny voice from the back seat that said, I have money Mommy. She
pulled out her wallet and gave me all her money which was 60 cents and
smiled as she handed it over. I stood there and cried, this is the
type of family I want to be the norm, happy and loving where the
parent is the hero they want their children to be. I work to help
those children we thrust into adulthood to come home when they get
back from the war.
Aug 13 Fri: In the early hours of the morning it is quite as I walk
and I stop in one of those gas station connivance stores that are the
norm and I ask the cashier to sign our petition, she gladly signs it
as she tells me she is worried about a friend who has come home from
the war only 20 years old and started drinking heavy because of what
he had seen and done. It seems that in times of war all humanity is
gone and at other times people reach their highest virtuous. He deals
with it the only way he knows how now, until that doesn’t work
I am walking the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and have decided to
change my route as I would be walking 200 miles through the woods
losing the momentum we are building up. A local bicycling is curious
and engages me in a conversation, after talking for awhile he asks if
I could use a water I said yes. So he gives me a water then asks if
he could do anything else, I said, yes, you could make a donation and
sign the petition. He said, I can’t do that, I am a Jehovah Witness
and I can’t get involved. I said you sound like the child that lives
in the closet at home and says he isn’t part of the family. He said
it didn’t bother his conscience to give me water but to donate he
couldn’t do that with a clear conscience. I thought it was
interesting to use a religion as an excuse for your actions.
Aug. 14 Saturday; In Ellisburg I notice a man and woman on the other
side of the street standing in front of their house waving to me so I
go over and talk to them. They said our son saw you walking and
called to tell us that you would be coming by, we just wanted to thank
you. They gave me food and water and 20 dollars for their Grandson
who is 12 and is always doing something for Vets. The husband started
to cry, I started to cry and so did his wife as we all stood in
Aug. 15 Sunday; This morning in Shawville VA I was stopped alongside
the road by a man yelling out his window, “I’m a vet too! We talked
after he pulled over to the side. He had been in V.N. 69 to 70 going
in when he was 17, he said, I was a kid fighting an old mans war, I
was a victim. I had been in and out of hospitals for 30 years, gone
through 4 marriages, abandoned 3 children, been through countless jobs
and had shut my doors to the world. I will talk to guys that say they
have been in and brag about the war and I know they haven’t been
there. He is finally forgiving himself and helping others, he has
opened the doors to his home.
When I reached Christenburg a young woman said I read your
article and thank you for what you are doing, my father went to V.N.
and he is my hero. His best friend was killed on his birthday and I
said it must bother him everyday. She looked up at me while sitting
in her car and cried, whispering, he hates his birthday.
Aug 16 Monday; As I walked through the village of Radford a woman
came out of her shop to talk to me saying she saw me on the news and
what a great adventure I was on. While she signed the petition and
gave me money she described how her brother had come home from
Afghanistan. He had already served active duty and had been
redeployed while in the Reserves years later and was now in prison
after being in a shoot out in Vegas where one of the sheriffs was
wounded. It was later discovered that the sheriff was wounded by
friendly fire. I understand the term friendly fire, but there is
nothing friendly about it.
A mile away from there a man signed, a veteran himself who said
that Bush should be tried for treason against the American people and
war crimes. His anger matched his statement, I would like to think
that our leaders have info we don’t and are making the right
decisions. If they aren’t how could they live with themselves?
Aug 17 Tues; Last night we spent the evening with a doctor and a
minister who are going through a brutal devorice. We talked at how
beatup everyone becomes and the children are held hostage. We
discussed how if the men supported one another and had workshops of an
empowering nature all would benefit. They are going to start a group
along those lines in Radison VA.
Today as I walked by a store front a woman ran out to ask me if I was
the man walking across the country, I said, I am, would you sign the
petition. She said yes, as she signed she told me both her son and
husband were in the military and their were never the same when they
got home as she fought back tears.
Walking a car pulled up behind me and a man got out and said I
want to sign your petition. He came from a military family where his
father was in for 32 year, he had been in for 21and his son is now in.
He is angry how the soldiers are being treated and how Congress seems
to turn a blind eye to them.
Aug 18 Wed; Leaving Pulaski VA I had a nice walk up the mountain and
a Womn Police Officer stopped traffic to shake my hand and thank me
what I was doing as I was coming down the backside of the Mt.
Meet a young man taking out his garbage in the am, as I talked to
him he told me that he was in the Airforce over in Afganistan, didn’t
get any help and said, maybe that’s whats wrong with me?
Aug 19 Thur; Walking in the rain to Wytheville VA I zoned out and was
brought back to earth by a cars horn honking. I looked behind me and
a woman jumps out in the rain carrying a bag and a cup of coffee for
me. She said, I thank you for what your doing, my son came back last
year from the war and my grandson is over there now, God Bless you.
She was grateful and coming from a family of soldiers they were able
to give the support that their family members needed when they got
home. That is someone that understands, can relate and help carry
them when things get a little tough.
A man after signing my petition with a sad anxious look in his
eye apologized several times saying he wanted to give me a few bucks
but, couldn’t because he was out of work and things didn’t look good.
Aug 20 Fri; Walking out of Atkin Va through heavy fog a Police
Officer stopped me telling me to be carefull, I thanked him and walked
on. An hour later he came by and told me I was making good time so I
asked if he had any water, he said, no, so I told him I still loved
him anyway, he smiled and left. Half an hour later he came by with a
cold bottle of water and said, I got this for you and left.
Met Jim Gordan one of the most active vets I ever saw who goes to
consueling and does what he can to help other vets get the help they
need. He told me he was having a good day as he got out on the right
side of the bed, I told him to put the bad side against the wall. He
said right now it is in the middle of the room.
Stopped at a yard sale and was ignore, guess they figured if they
ignored me I would go away and I did, but by ignoring this problem it
won’t go away.
Aug 21 Sat; I met a young man at Marion Va who wouldn’t sign the
petition because he said, my father was a vet who had a heart attack
and they didn’t have a bed for him at the VA Hospital, So your not
going to sign this so that others won’t get the same treatment your
father did, he said that’s right. I’m not signing because I have to
take care of my own. I told him I was in and just because it happend
to us doesn’t mean we should let it happen to others. will you sign
it, he said no and good luck. I said my luck would be your signature
so if you don’t want to sign it don’t wish me luck.
He seemed to be one of those people who are angry that if they
didn’t get what they think is coming to them they don’t want anyone
else to get it either. Like his not signing would make a bed appear,
his signing will help make sure no one gets a bed. At first I was
angry then forgave him as he has to live with his anger, I just walked
I don’t think it matters much what we do in life long as we do it with
love. Doing a deed out of love not out of fear; such as when you do
something for a loved one just because you love them. Not doing a
deed such as taking from someone else because you are afraid you won’t
Leaving Marion a man pulls over, getting out of his car he tells
me he is the Mayor and thanks me for what I am doing, saying that they
told him in town that I was passing through and he said he would find
me. He told
me he was never in the military, but supports what I am doing giving
me money, putting his money where his mouth was.
Aug 22 Sunday; When people drive by and give me the thumbs up I like
to think that I have been their mirror showing them one of their best
sides and what they believe in.
Aug 22 Sunday; Talked to a man who had been in prison, the cause
steming from a dysfunctional military family, turning his life around
he went about making amends. One of the ways was by repaying people
he had stole from. He went to a police station saying he had robbed a
home in his town and wanted to repay them but, couldn’t remeber where
the house was, would they help him find it. He told them the year and
aproximate date but they where unable to find it that way so he asked
would they drive him around to help him find it, they said yes. They
were driving around when he pointed out the house and told the police
officer that was the one. The officer pulled over, looked at him and
said that is my mother’s house. He thought that he was going to go to
jail when the officer said that’s my mothers house, but instead he
said I know my mother wouldn’t want you to go to jail.
Aug 23 Monday; Today I had a moment of mortality not understanding
why people aren’t as passionate about this as I am. I went up to a
home owner who asked if he signed this was he committing to anything,
if he was he couldn’t sign, but he said, I support you. What kind of
support is that? I support you if I don’t have to do anything and no
one will know. Is that fear based or is it my imagination as I walk
into Abington? I stopped at a business with a sign out frount saying
they support the troops, no one their would sign it either, I stopped
at another business that had sign out frount saying they support the
troops but wouldn’t let us park our camper there. I guess what they
mean by supporting the troops is they will serve them, take their
money but don’t ask for more then that cause you aren’t going to get
Aug 24 Tuesay; A person drove by and from the safty of his car called
me Fagot. I laughed to myself and thought, why would someone call me
that? I figured that since I wasn’t fitting the styerotype of a
“Man”, to show no emotion or passion for anything other then a skirt
and dress a certain way I wasn’t a man. I possible made him feel
uncomfortable because I showed some conviction and steped out of the
box to do it.
Everyday is different and going into Bristol I got a number of
people nt signing because they were afraid. Afraid to lose their
jobs, afraid to make a commitment and afraid they would lose
something. Well I know if I make no stand at all I will have created
my greatest fear for what I resist, persists. I won’t have to be
afraid for long because it will be here and then I will have to worry
about living with it.
The end of the day I became very judgemental where we went to eat
when the guy next to us was talking loudly on his cell phone and
ordering the waitress around with a sirly voice, just figuring he was
the Ugly American. After talking to him finding out how he had went
without to ensure his children had an education and having them get
involved in voleteer work, I started to regret my hasty judgement and
I truly did after he paid for our dinner and wished us God speed.
Aug 25 Wed; Walking through Bristol on a remote road I thought about
yesterday with the driver calling me a Fagot and my judgement of the
guy sitting next to us at dinner. I did what I get angry at everybody
else for doing which is judging based on observation without
knowledge. I made a decision on what I had made up in my mind without
facts. So what I didn’t know, I made up and what I did know, I
After this thought on the median a State Trooper drove up behind
me with his lights flashing, sticks out a bottle of water to me,
saying I don’t want you to get dehydrated. I thanked him, he said he
is a Marine in the Reserves that is going to be deployed to
Afganistain soon. I said I am a little out of touch with the news,
but I thought everyone was being pulled out? He said, no we are still
going over to secure Afganistain.
Aug 26 Thursday; This morning after passing the mecca of man and
machine, NASCAR at Bristol Tenn. I stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken
to use the bathroom, they weren’t open yet. I turned around to go in
the bushes when a lady opened the door and asked if she could help me.
I said, Yes, could I use your bathroom, she hesitated for a moment
then said yes. As I came to the door I asked if she would sign the
petition, she said yes and wanted to know how I could do it barefoot,
I told her it wasn’t the hardest part of my walk then went to the
restroom. When I came out she had everyone there sign it then told
me, “My nephew came back from Iraq and tried to commit suicide 3
times, saying he needed help, just last year he killed himself”. She
fought back tears as I said this is the hardest part of my walk.
I had talk to a minister the other night and told him I learned
that prayer is something I do when I can’t minister to the one I pray
for. People tell me that prayer moves mountains, but when I pray to
move a mountain I wake up the next morning to find a shovel in my
August 27 Friday; Walking through Johnson City Tenn. I meet a Marine
who served active from 2004 to2008 while signing the petition he said
he got a little counseling for PTSD then headed off to work.
Taking some back roads to shave off a few miles I had an
interview with a reporter from the local paper. He was one of those
guys that recycles, uses a manual mower to cut down on pollution and
supports causes. He told me he would contact his Congressman about
what we are doing and help get other media attention for us. As he
walked with me to get some shots I asked a lady, older then myself to
sign the petition, she responded vehemently, “My father was an Army
Man for 30 years, I been there, done that, I don’t sign petitions,
they only get you in trouble! The next building over ,as a man was
getting into his truck I asked him to sign, he said, yes, I’m a Vet,
maybe they’ll get what we didn’t.
Just before I stopped for the day a police officer stopped me as
I was walking the Median. He told me to get off to the side, I said,
I like the median because of the grass, forgive me I am getting soft.
He said, I can understand that since your doing it barefoot. We talked
a while, he was in the Army for 12 years, been deployed to 3 different
battles over there. Since I have been back I have been treated like a
God, it’s not like when you were in. He said he could go both ways on
our petition because he feels that some guys are just looking for a
pay check. I agreed that does happen, but I said you know the guys
already in trouble aren’t getting an Honorable discharge so you know
they get nothing and they need it the most. He agreed and said just
stay in the center of the median I don’t want anyone hitting you with
a beer bottle, there’s a lot of assholes out there, I said I know I’m
one of them, he said, no your not, your not hitting anyone with a beer
A few hours after I got back to the camper I got a call from
Congressman Phillip Roe who was notified by the reporter. He told me
he would look at what I am doing and maybe have me come to Washington,
he also put me in touch with his Aide. I told his Aide that some
Congressmen said they were unable to do anything, he said that is
nonsense we’re in Congress we could at least speak up. It gave me
hope that I may have found a Champion, he didn’t worry that I don’t
vote in his state.
August 28 Saturday; Today before I passed the birthplace of Davey
Crockett I was greeted by a local policeman making sure I was fine.
During our early morning discussion he told me that 3 of his fellow
officers are Vets that go on a regular basis for PTSD and he would
make sure they heard about what we are doing.
As I walked a young man waved at me as he passed and pulled over
to wait for me. When I got to him he wanted to know if I was
protesting the war, I said no and told him what it was about. He said
good because I had gone to a funeral not to long ago a local had died
fighting for our freedom and at his funeral there were people
protesting giving him no rest. I am speechless in how disrespectful
some people can be. I can’t imagine how they expect to get any
respect when they are unable to give it. Who would want to join an
organization that is afraid to go after the one causing the problem?
August 29 Sunday; Before I even started walking, being dropped off
where I stopped yesterday a deer jumped across the road without even
touching the pavement. It is the little things like that give me
pause to the wonder of the world around me.
Coming into Afton a young man pulls over, not more then 20 with
his girlfriend trying to sleep in the front seat wrapped in his
security jacket from work. I see their worldly possessions in the
back seat and know their car is their home. He said tell me about
this, I was just talking to somebody 5 minutes ago about this after I
got of work. He was telling me to join the military and retire after
20, I said, what about the suicides, I’m going crazy now should I go
in the service then come home and kill myself? It is sad when a
persons options are limited and they take a job to support them self
rather then because it is their dream.
I thought America was the country of unlimited opportunity, am I mistaken?
August 30 Monday; Making it to Midway Tenn a man pulled over and came
up to me saying you have no idea how much this means to me. I read
the story, saw you walking and just had to say thank you. Talking
while on the median he told me how he fought for a political issue and
lost his job and has been black balled because of it. I said I stay
out of the polatics, the blaming and work to do what I feel is the
right thing. He said even though it cost him he feels good about
himself because he stuck to his principles. Money can come and go,
but when you lose your principles you have lost more and get to
regrete it on your death bed.
August 31 Tuesday; Because of a news story printed today a man had
pulled over on the highway to thank me and said it is a shame you have
to do this. He is a Vet. who worked in the VA counseling those coming
home with PTSD and now that he is retiring he plans to continue
counseling through the Church’s in the Midway and surrounding area.
I am on a road with 6 inch shoulders that tractor trailers speed
down blowing my hat off as they go by. When a truck with a whip
antenna pulls up ahead of me and stops in a driveway. A woman gets
out crying and asks if she can take my picture as she cries, and cries
and cries, I say yes. After taking the picture she says, I have a
nephew over in Afghanistan and my son in law just came back and he is
so angry. I didn’t realize how worried about it I was till I saw your
sign. My daughter wouldn’t tell me what is going on till she brought
her dog back home. He’s stressed out, looks terrible and he’s only a
dog for God’s sake. She told me that one of his friends had just
committed suicide and since then he has drawn a gun on his father, on
himself twice and on my daughter. She said, we don’t know what to do
he won’t listen to anyone, whispering she sobs, my daughter is
pregnant with his child.
I asked if it was OK to take her picture, she said yes. This will
be the first time I have ever taken the picture of a mother grieving
because I crying with them all and felt it is a private moment not to
be made public, but if we don’t start treating it different it will
never change.I want you to see the face of pain and grieve I see.
September 1 Wednesday; Met a road crew who all signed it after I
threaten the biggest guy who only out weighted me by 120 pounds making
my job a little easier. We kidded around for a few minutes, but it
turned serious as one of the crew told me of his brother in the
National Guard who has come home unable to get a job. They told him
it is because he was deployed to many times. His other brother had
committed suicide within a year of getting discharged.
September 2 Thursday; I had stopped at the VFW in Morrison Tenn and
gone into the wrong door only to find it was an apartment for 4 men, 3
of whom are Vets. They all signed and the youngest told me that he
had come back from Somalia with 98 others and only 22 are still alive.
September 3 Friday; Met a fellow Marine whose daughter is also a
Marine over there now, he is invested in this war more then most
Americans and couldn’t sign fast enough.
Later that day in New Market Tenn a reporter stopped and did an
interview. At one point during the interview he said, I’ve known you
for a little over an hour and in that time a Veteran has committed
suicide. I was stunned, I guess I have said it to so many others so
many times I was numb to it. If it is one in my life time and it is
my child it is one to many.
September 4 Saturday; Last night I talked to the VA center in
Nashville where I am going to speak on the 16th and the impression I
got was that the state is picking up the slack for the Federal
Government, it seemed a little backwards to me.
Today I walked down Magnolia St. in Knoxville Tenn. which at one
time was a decent area and now is in decline. Decline in that shops
are closed, yards are unkempt, homeless roam the streets and hookers
sit on the porch’s. They sign my petition, they were in the impact
zone, their husbands and friends were the bomb. Regardless all are
affected by this plague even those from nicer neighborhoods who think
this ailment skips their door.
September 5 Sunday; Today I didn’t walk, but I did speak at the
Kingston Christian Church in Tenn., they greeted us with open arms,
barefoot and all and I found out later they didn’t even know I was
coming. There was a wide range of awareness, from people not knowing
what we were talking about to those that had a loved one commit
suicide. The entire congregation signed the petition and prayed for
us with more then their lips.
September 6 Monday; In the cool darkness of the morning as I tread
upon the pavement a lady stopped me to find out what I was doing and
after signing asked if I had any publicity. I said, I hadn’t
contacted any yet, but would after 8am, she said she would call also
when she got home. A fellow Marine joined me on my walk, he was moved
by my talk at the church yesterday and felt it was time he did more to
reach out to his fellow man.
We had 2 TV interviews as we walked and got to speak this
afternoon at a Democratic Rally, everyone there signed the petition.
September 7 Tuesday; Today while I walked Valeria checked the emails
an she got one that read: When I joined, we were the first females
to have the same training as the men. All we asked was to be treated
the same as the men. That was not to be. They refuse to believe that
almost getting raped in ’78 as well as being placed in uncomfortable
situations was a problem. It was just boys being boys. So I started
drinking; like the boys, and when I was hurt, I refused to be taken
off the range on a stretcher, just just so I could show how tough I
was. That just messed up my knees worse. I’ve been out since May of
’79 and it’s been an uphill battle with the VA since. They’re
refusing almost everything except I did fall during live-fire
maneuvers so they have to give me a 40% disability for my knees.
Now I’m too tired to fight anymore. the measy $560 they give me to
live on is not enough. Please let people know of the shameful way the
government is treating female vets. You don’t need to reply. I don’t
intend to be here. I’m just another piece of throw-away Army
Valeria made contact with her and talked with her for some time.
We don’t expect this to be the last of such emails.
We spent the night with a family we had met at the church we
spoke. The daughters husband was a Marine Helicopter Pilot who did
Angel flights. Which is flying into a war zone to pick up the fallen.
Some of you may wonder why risk your life for someone who is dead,
but then again would you leave your brother behind dead or alive?
Marines don’t, her husband remembers everyone of their names and rank.
We think we can imagine what it was like, but we can’t until we
have been there.
September 8 Wednesday; Stopping at a gas station where I gave the
petition to the woman behind the register to sign. She looked very
conflicted and said she was afraid to sign because she felt it would
jeperdize her job. Not to far up the road I was asked to leave
because someone approached me in the parking lot of the convience
store to sign the petition. It pains me to see so much fear, why
would any business be against our cause? The other reason which pains
me is the apathy.
If good people do nothing the fearfull will realize their greatest fear.
September 9 Thursday; A man said he didn’t have time to sign the
petition, I’d like him to tell that to the soldiers I met with out an
arm and leg. A lot of people I met are upset about the Mosque
especialy that floor flapper in Florida who wants to prove that two
wrongs don’t make a right.
September 10 Friday; This morning when I went out it was so dark I
had to look to the sky to find the cut in the woods to find the road.
Later in the morning it turned out to be overcast which is my kind of
weather. A woman pulled over and said, you need an umbrella, …, who
in your family did it. I said no one, I had a bunch of friends who
did. She said my daughter did a year and a half ago on her birthday.
They shouldn’t send them over if they already have problems, my
daughter was bi polar, drank and couldn’t understand why she was
I asked her if she would start a suicide support group for who
knows better then her how it can destroy a family. She said she would
think about it and check out the website. Before she left she gave me
$5 and said that is what I make an hour.
As I was going around a bend a woman came out of her house saying
I saw you on TV, God Bless you and all Vets. She said she wanted to
have a picture of us together, but she doesn’t have a camera. I said
I would take our picture with my cell phone and her daughter could
down load it off of our web when we put it on. Her husband came out
and took our picture. She was so happy and gave me a hand full of
change, she had told me she lives off of 200 dollars a month SS and
wished she could give me more. As we talked I noted that her jewlery
was missing stones, after I left them I cried for I remembered how my
Grandmother made and stiched her own cloths, made her own soap and had
jewlery like that. She had gone without things so that she could get
me little gifts.
September 11 Saturday; We went into the Central Time Zone and as I
walked through Crossville in the rain they were having a 5K run for
9/11. I finaly ended at Pleasant Hill and had thought of all the junk
yards I had seen in the past few days. It seemed there is a parrall
as I see the broken lives of the homeless, families wracked by the
guilt of suicide and those in deniel as they self medicate themselves;
the human junkyards. Fences are built to keep the people out, scrubs
and fresh paint on buildings by the road are used to make people think
everything is beautiful on the other side.
I met with several Vets today, one had been diagnosed with PTSD
last year after being out of the military for almost 20 years and
living a life of self imposed exile. He didn’t know he had a problem.
The other just shakes his head and thinks the only way to solve the
corruption in politics is to shoot or hang them all and have the
people take back their country.
Sept 12 Sunday; Leaving Pleasant Hill I made it to Bon Air Tenn and
finally found a gas station market that was open. I got something to
drink and got a patron to sign the petition after convincing him it
was better then doing nothing. As I went out a man came in and I
asked if he would sign, he said, sure. As he signed it he said, I got
back last year, my friend stayed in and went over again. He came home
last month and blew his head off. Our First Sgt. killed himself too;
you know it’s bad when a First Sgt. does it.
It is easier to understand a young man or woman just in a few
years to break under the strain, but what makes a career man that has
dealt with it for years to crumble?
Sept 13 Monday; Walking into Sparta a man I ask to sign the petition
says no and looks at me like he stepped in something he doesn’t want
on his shoe. My immediate feeling was one of beating him senseless,
which passed and I just laughed to myself and walked on. I laughed
because I realized I am easy to get along with as long as I get my
I just happen to come upon the news paper in town and stop in.
The editor was interested enough to hear my story and take a picture
for the paper. After the interview she said, my friend’s family is
going through a rough time because her daughter committed suicide,
it’s not military related. But, I wondered could it be related in
someway because the thought was planted by the military deaths. The
seeming acceptance of suicide by our society as an option because it
isn’t talked about, addressed because of the stigma attached to it.
From what I have seen our way of thinking is that the family and
closest friends should have done something, known and are guilty for
their actions. If this isn’t changed this epidemic will never stop.
September 14 Tuesday; Last night a group of Veterans for Peace from
the Cookville area dropped by to see me and talk. They talked how
they are working on a support group for Veterans that come home so
they have a group of peers they can talk to when they come home.
Helping soldiers having trouble finding peace find peace which I
support, I don’t support protesting War. Who am I to know with what
little information I have whether or not a War is just?
Also how can I be a model of peace when I am not even able to get
along with people who love me, when I find humor at their expense.
That arrogance of not willing to change because I am fine with the way
I am and having not compromised because of my ego. How can there ever
be peace when I have been unwilling to compromise? Saying I am to set
in my ways, I am perfect the way I am is just a lame excuse for being
insensitive to another human being. How would I like to be treated if
I was that person seeing the world as they do, how appreciative am I
of that person? If God can love that person what is my problem?
After hours of chewing on this topic I stopped in the VFW where
I meet the Commander an Ex Army Man discharged in 2002. He had
questions about what I am doing because he got counseling and
questioning those that commit suicide. Also the leadership that
allows the break down or acceptance of those not fit to handle the
duty. As he signed the petition he told me when he goes for a job
interview he is turned down because he is a Vet. and is still looking
for work. What happened to Veteran preference?
September 15 Wednesday: A man I stopped on the street in Smithville I
asked to sign the petition said, it’s a great idea, but I have to
think about it. Oh it’s a great idea to put water on your house when
it’s on fire, but let me think about it while it burns down. Better
yet helping the Soldiers with PTSD is a great idea, but let’s do a
study for a few years and spend millions while they kill themselves.
Went through Smithville and Dowellville today down off the
Pleatue. One of the things I have been finding out is now because
there is so much attension paid to PTSD that anyone who comes out has
trouble getting a job because they are labeled.
Sept 16 Thursday: The other day after taking a slight detour to talk
at the Nashville VA we talking to a group of men who asked who are you
speaking to at the VA, I said, I hope humans! At the VA we were happy
to find all the programs they have and are starting for all those
coming out of the military. We had 150 Vets and Doctors sign our
petition and endorse what we are doing. They got TV coverage for us
and some great contacts for other groups.
As Valeria and I stood at the table we were treated like royalty
with alot of us hugged and cried as we shared. The work now is to get
the civilians to realize the only difference between them and us
(those of a military background) is the experience. We all have PTSD
it is a human condition not a stigma that is not singular to military
personnel. We have to erase the stigma in and out of the military for
there to be any real change.
September 17 Friday: This morning before we got back on the road from
the event at the Nashville VA I got a text message (who said your too
old to learn anything) from one of the Vets being treated at the VA
for PTSD. When I hear the stories of soldiers, what they went through
and the courage they have it inspires and gives me hope. Their
strength is in admitting they have a problem that affects the ones
they love around them and to deal with it. When I hear their stories
it is easy for me to understand why they would commit suicide instead
of going on.
This particular soldier had gone to sick bay, was heavily
sedated, raped by a male nurse, later goes into combat and witness all
the trauma of war only to come home and have his wife commit suicide.
He works to overcome these traumas for the love of his children, where
if he committed suicide it would be easy for me to understand.
Sept 18 Saturday: Walking in thick fog to Lascassas Tenn on route 96
a woman pulls up, rolls down her window and said, I saw you earlier
this morning and thought you were going to commit suicide, why haven’t
you done it yet? I said thanks for your concern, sorry to disappoint
you, if I was going to do it I wouldn’t be carrying a sign, I’d have
done it already. Do you have any water, I’m dying out here? She
said, no, but I would be glad to get you some. I thanked her and she
did return with water, hopefully to keep me alive till I change my
Another lady pulled over and got out of her car fighting back
tears and said, when I first saw your sign earlier today I was taken
back. When I got home and talked to my boyfriend, he told me you were
walking barefoot across the country, thank you for what you are doing,
I guess I am out of touch with reality, I don’t watch TV, do you take
donations? I said yes, would you sign the petition as I handed it to
her. After she signed she asked if she could take my picture, I said
yes. After she took the picture and gave me some money she said,
thank you. Then she stood there and cried.
I don’t think not watching TV is an indication of being out of
touch. I think being out of touch is not being aware of others around
me, my environment and the impact I have on them.
Sunday September 19 Changed my course a little and went through
Murfreesboro instead of Smyrna maybe get more traffic? As I walked a
man came out to his mail box to get the Sunday paper and I asked him
to sign the petition, which he did, reluctantly and asked if he would
be on a mailing list, I said, no. 10 minutes later down the road a
car pulls up behind me, it is the man who just signed, he came up to
me and said, I want to read it, I don’t sign anything without reading
it, I said, sure, and handed him the clipboard so he could read it.
He said, OK, I don’t want to be on a mailing list, got in his car and
left. 10 minutes later he pulled up behind me again, got out and said
I can’t find you on the Internet, I want to take my name off. I said
did you look up thelongwalkhome.org, he said, I probably didn’t put
the g on, as he scribbled his name off. I said, when you do, you can
sign up on the website. He said, I really hope this is legitimate and
got in his car again and left.
I shook my head and said to myself, what could I possibly get out
of making this up to get a mailing list? The more I thought about it I
realized that the underlying cause for all the problems in the world
is fear. Fear of scarcity, security, pain, lose of love and most of
all fear of God. If I am afraid of lose I attack to protect what I
think I am losing. If I am fearless what need is there to attack
anything or anybody? To fear God or the lose of his love doesn’t make
sense to me. I go on a belief that God loves me more then I love my
two boys, who I would do anything for no matter what they did or said.
The only way I could send them to hell is if they said they wanted to
go and I let them. If they got there and changed their mind, I would
storm the gates of hell itself to get them out. I would never want my
children to fear me; respect and love yes, but never fear for that
would tell me they think that I would harm them, which I would never
At the end of my walk I came upon one of America’s finest, a
Homeless Vet who got out in 2008, still wearing his fatigues and
boots, his body covered with sores and lesions with his shirt open
showing ribs covered in pale white flesh. He said he saw me on TV and
said God Bless You. I thanked him and asked him to sign, he said,
shit yea and asked me if I had been to Nam after I told him I am a
Marine. I said, no, my orders were changed and everyone I was to go
with got shot. He turned around, hanging his head and cried for an
instant, then stopped turning around shaking my hand. I said they
have a VA here and they can help, he said I am going, that is what
they taught me in the Army, to face it head on. I gave him some money
and I am not worried what he uses it for because I know it will be
what he needs today. When I got picked up minutes later, I cried as
another human walks the streets thinking he is not good enough to be
Monday September 20: Today I was joined by The Unknown Vet, a fellow
Marine who has suffered with PTSD for 40 years. He supports what we
do by helping us get signatures for our petition and will be walking
with a sign also in his local states. What we do is so similar it
would be reinventing the wheel, so we will work together and
As we walked and had our moving meeting a lady ran out of her
house and asked if we would like some water and to sit down, we said
yes. While we were there she made sandwich’s, desert, chips, juice, 2
goody bags, gave us 2 rolls of toilet paper and signed the petition.
I said we have to leave before she brings out the refrigerator on a
dolly; her daughter is in Afghanistan now.
While getting a paper interview a man ran out of his house, which
we were standing in front of to shake our hands saying he had passed
us earlier and check out our website. Hopefully enough people are
curious and inspired enough to look up our website and sign the
Tuesday September 21: Today as I walked a shoulder less road I was
stopped by a policeman who wanted my ID after asking me what I was
doing. While we were talking 2 other officers came blocking traffic
for a mile and as people passed they would yell out, keep walking.
The officer told me that there were shoulders 4 or 5 miles up the road
and asked if I had anybody helping me, I told them I did and tried to
call, but was unable to reach them. I asked if they would give me a
lift and let me ride in the back. They said, sure and we won’t even
charge you for gas. As the young man escorted me to a safer location
I told him I was putting on my safety belt as I didn’t want to make a
citizens arrest so early in the morning, he said, he didn’t want me to
have to do that either and we talked about what I was doing. I came
to find out that his uncle had been in Viet Nam, returning home he was
never the same and died 3 years ago after a life of hard drinking. I
said, I don’t mean to preach to the choir, but the suicides and those
coming home changed are the tip of the iceberg, the iceberg are the
people around them especially the children that are affected by them.
I know you see it everyday, he said yes and I know.
They all signed the petition and wished me well as they sent me
on my way down the road in Franklin. In this town the girl working
the register at the gas station I bought a map said she had a soldier
who just got home yelling at her saying how everyone was staring at
him a Ihop. He said, what, is there something wrong with my uniform?
Wednesday September 22: After walking on some very quite, scenic
roads Valeria and I were interviewed by channel 5. Talking with the
camera man and the announcer they said that this story was important
to them. The camera man’s brother-in-law served and the anchor woman
shared how her father came back from the war a different man and it
had affected her life forever. As I talked into the camera about the
collateral damage of the family she had turned her back to the camera
Thursday, September 23; Today I walked over 20 miles on Natchez Trace
Parkway, the walking was great, but there wasn’t much traffic. I had
one man stop out of the 50 or so that passed in the first few hours.
He wanted to know if I was OK, he was on holiday from the Ukrain,
after I told him what I was doing he gave me some water and was on his
way. After he left I remembered quite sometime ago that a group from
Poland, I don’t remember if it was school children or a church group
found out about the homeless in NY and sent sleeping bags and I think
even food. Well it seems that the people of NY got indignate about it
and didn’t accept it. Were they indignate because there is a problem
they didn’t want to address or was it ego that we are so wonderfull
helping the rest of the world that we were insulted to think we need
aid for our own?
Have we lost sence of our priorities? I wondered as I venture a
guess at what the people are thinking as they pass me. Is this guy a
wacko, what is he doing, I’m to busy to stop, I don’t care, it’s not
my problem, I’m glad someone is doing something about this, now I
don’t have to do anything about it, I can’t do anything, I’ll do
It may not seem like much, signing a petition, but it is because
you have made a change and that has an impact you can’t always see.
As I was enjoying the grass carpet a woman in her 40′s (I
guess)pulled over, got out of her car stood in the middle of the road
looking at me and cried. She told me her friend from high school had
committed suicide years ago after he got out of the military. She
cried like it just happened, some memories never fade away.
Sept 24 Friday: Went to a PTSD group session at Murfreesboro where we
have been staying with Bob Mims. Bob who has suffered with PTSD for
40 years has been inspired to help by carring a sign just like mine
getting people to sign the petition. It matters to him and he knows I
can’t do it alone. We need more people like this to make this happen.Sept 25 Saturday: Walking into Centerville I had the few people that
make up lame excuses or are so indifferent that I find myself getting
angry. As I walk thinking about my anger I realize this walk has
evolved into more then what I had originaly thought. I think these
people are put in my path so that I can forgive sides of myself so I
am able to love God.
Other then that it has been a trifecta, having a woman stop me on
the road to sign the petition and tell me to stop at her son’s
resturant for a meal. He wasn’t there so I called him to thank him
for alowing his mother to give away the store. Talking to him, he let
us park here for the night and speak at the church he is a minister.September 26 Sunday: Valeria and I spoke to a large crowd Sunday at
the Fairfield Church of Christ; the sermon was about unconditional
love vs. doormat love. I think our country uses he doormat version
for the Veterans. It goes like this, since you love us we can do
whatever we want to you. It is a one way street where the soldiers
are asked to give all and some do, the same rules don’t seem to apply
to the rest of us.
September 27 Monday: Walking into Pleasantville a reporter who had
interviewed us last night came to take pictures. When we are
interviewed we also ask them questions so we get to know their story.
We found out that his dream was to write for the NY Times, but the
girl he married convinced him to stay in a small town and be a
While he walked with me seeing me interact with the people
especialy a father whose son is over there now and telling of his
friends that have committed suicide; he said softly as he looked
passed me, I am amazed you are still this passionate after 1200 miles.
Then stood there looking down and cried.
Before I ended for the day the owner of the Pleasantville Market,
Deb invited Valeria and myself to lunch and then to park our camper
for the night at her place. Her Grandson is in the Marines and she
told all her customers about us and had them sign the petition. One
man who came over to thank us cried as his hands trembled shaking my
hand telling me about his PTSD and some of the action he saw that
still haunts him till this day. He tells a story of his friend who
was in special ops that went out on a night mission with 3 others to
come back without them but with 19 prisioners. He approached a
different check point with a different password, the guard said, to
prove your friendly shoot your prisioners; he shot them all.
September 28, Tuesday: As I walked into Linden I heard someone
yelling stop. I turned around and a man was running after me, when
Matt got to me he told me he wanted me to talk to his staff at the
Chamber of Commerce, so I did. Wanting to learn more Matt invited
Valeria and myself to lunch saying he was a Marine and his co worker
Kevin was 101 Airborn. Kevin said, we were just talking about you and
I was glad one of the staff wasn’t working, just staring out the
window and saw you. Matt was adamint about helping and wanted to set
up a speaking engagment and bring me to the paper. If I knew you were
coming we could have set up more for you. I thanked him and he said,
it was the least he could do.
We found out that Kevin’s son was over seas now and when he had
come home on leave Kevin took him tubing down a river for the whole
day to help him decompress and talk. Must civilians don’t know what
to do to help someone in the military for it is out of their relm of
experience. That simple little tube ride could have been the
difference between his son going out to a bar with his friends having
a good time or a disaster because someone said the wrong thing to a
man wrapped to tight.
Matt spent the entire day with us setting up things and making
calls always repeating his mantra, it’s the least I could do.
September 29 Wednesday: Walking out of Linden as the fog lifted over
the fields a young woman pulled over and said, I hoped I would get to
meet you, my son is in the USMC andon of his friends has committed
suicide, thank you for what you are doing. I had to walk her over to
the side of the road telling her I didn’t want her to get run over. I
looked at her puzzled, telling her she didn’t look old enough t have a
son in the Marines. She smiled and assured me she was. As she pulled
away I thought to myself I must be getting old (I think I am twelve)
because everyone seems to look younger to me then they are.
After ending my walk for the day Valeria and I went to speak at
the Perry County High School that was set up by Matt, who also came
with us. We were warned that they could be rude as they were
freashmen on the edge of being children or adults at any given moment.
While we spoke they were attentive, quite and some cried. I had
told them when I started speaking that I had wanted them to sign our
petition, but forgot to give it to them to sign. Going out the door
one of them ran up to us and said, we want to sign the petition; they
all signed it. Their teacher told us he had never seen them so well
behaved for so long.
When we got back to the office to say good bye they had collected
money for our journey and Matt came over to see us off. As we stood
by the camper he said, I want to show you something. He pulled a
picture out of his wallet of three guys on stage singing. This was me
and my friends I went in the Marines with and we all got out at the
same time, we literaly closed this bar down that night and John took
the 8 ball, he gave it to me and said, put this in your back pocket so
you never get behind the 8 ball, John killed himself 7 days later.
Matt pulled the 8 ball out of his back pocket and said this is the
first time I ever told anyone, it’s why I was so adamit about helping
you. He put Johns name and a picture of the 8 ball on the front of
September 30 Thursday: Leaving the campground at Decatur Bend under
the cover of darkness it seems I startled some truck driver because a
police officer came to escort me to a wider part of the road. The
truck driver said that I had jumped out
in front of him. Before I was released into the wild they feed me
breakfast and I got to see the other officer on duty.
He stopped me yesterday, someone called in that I was going tojump off a bridge. He wouldn’t sign or take our card, I had asked if
he would take some advise, he said, maybe brother. I told him to sign
the petition on the web site before he went on his way.
After breakfast Tony signed, but my young friend from
yesterday is still holding out.
I came upon a road crew and going up to this big guy wearing acowboy hat, a huge silver belt buckle and alligator skin cowboy boots.
I asked him to sign the petition, he said it wouldn’t make any
difference they are going to kill themselves anyway. I said, if I do
nothing we’ll never know. He said, I know from first hand experience
that it doesn’t make a difference, my wife was in counseling, took my
357 magnum and blew her damn brains out, it don’t make no difference.
He spat on the ground near my feet, turned his back on me and walked
to his truck. As I got back on the road and passed him in his truck,
I said, I’m sorry for your lose, he ignored me and drove off. 2 miles down the road I met a woman who signed it saying her son
had committed suicide and she got some good counseling to help her,
but she said, it never goes away. Stopping for the day
Valeria and I went to lunch where a woman came up to us and asked if I wasthe guy walking with the sign. I said, yes, she told us a teacher
just lost her brother to suicide and she is having a hard time coping
with it. We told her about our resource page and gave her our number
as well. 10 minutes later another woman in the restaurant asks us the
same thing and tells us of her friend whose husband came home
different and now they are divorced. We are in a very small town,
Scotts Hill Tenn, no place is immune to this plague.
October 1st Friday: In the Jacks Creek area a man about my age pulls
his car off the road and gets out with a big smile handing me a bottle
of water saying, I’m a Vet of Nom and that isn’t like the ones they
carried when I got back.
October 2nd Saturday: Walking into Henderson I go up to a group of
guys standing around on a loading dock passing the time while they
wait for some work, I ask them to sign. One man out of the group says
yes and comes to me as he does so the others silently slink away so
that when he is finished, it is just the two of us. With people as
fearful as they are in this country it makes sense that we have more
bombs then anybody else, we need them.
October 3rd Sunday: Today I didn’t walk, instead I went to a Church
of Christ on Church St. in Henderson, invited by Jim Ross who saw me
walking down the road yesterday. He is with NAMI, National Asc Mental
Illness which just formed a chapter in Henderson, they also have a
branch that deals with Veterans. On a days notice he got in touch
with the local media and got us to speak at his church.
When I heard Jim’s story about how he had been beaten within
inch’s of his life over a racial issue 35 years ago, left crippled for
life and not holding any grudge because of his faith in a God that
uses all things to his glory. I am humbled and inspired to look at my
own thoughts as I see a man who has a smile on his face and peace in
his heart when one wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.
October 4th Monday: The temperature has dropped from the 90 and 100
degree days I have walked in to the 40′s and 50′s before dawn. Being
the tender foot that I am I will start walking later in the day to
avoid that cool a temperature.
Jim drove 30 miles one way just to see me again and tell me that
I inspire him. How is it that the people that are my hero’s tell me
that I inspire them? They work with little or no praise or
recognition day in and day out touching lives. I cry because I don’t
think I deserve their praise, and I am not a humble man by nature.
October 5th Tuesday: Two policemen stopped by to questioned me, it
seems a lady had called in a complaint. It seems she was offended and
at 70mph she thought the sign said for her to committee suicide.
To further check out my story they went to where I said Valeria
was parked to verify my story. Dropping in on her to confirm my story
a man drove into the parking area and the police wanted to know if he
came to see her. She said I don’t know, then asked the gentleman who
had a Marine bumper sticker and was wearing fatigues if he dropped by
to see her because he had seen me on the road. He said, no I just
stopped to stretch my legs. As they talked Valeria told him what we
were doing and he told her he was in Nom and they didn’t get any help
and sure could have used it. Valeria said, wouldn’t you like to
change that? He signed the petition and she noticed the lights went
on in one of the police officers who took the petition signed it and
told his fellow officer to sign it. If everyone would just make that
little effort we could make history.
Just arriving in Somerville I stopped at a gas station and asked
this black man to sign who was sitting in his car. His head was the
size of a basketball, his legs were like the legs of an old piano and
his arms were huge, he was like a stump. He said he would sign it and
I said I’m glad, I didn’t want to have to get ruff with you. He
looked up through 2 eyes that had a milky white haze like cataracts
and grinned showing all gold teeth and said, Oh we wouldn’t want that
now little man would we? Then I looked behind me and saw his brother,
I said no wonder you weren’t worried, and we all laughed.
October 6 Wednesday: Walking out of Whiteville a man pulled over in
front of me getting out he said what’s this all about? When I told
him he said, I had passed you and had to turn around, I owe you at
least that much if you are doing anything for the Vets. He told me he
was in Desert Storm with the Marines and did what he believed was
right from what he had been told. What makes you kill yourself when
you get back is to find out the truth and second guess yourself, did I
do the right thing. He said, I went over to protect my family and
last year my son was murdered in the streets of Memphis, what did I
When I first got home and went to the VA they said they don’t
have any record of me serving so I handed them my records I brought
with me, they said this is no good it’s not certified, I told them it
was, look my Captain signed it, so they made a copy. I came back the
following week and they told me they lost it, I kept going till they
took care of me. They said I have polysyctema which is an inherent
blood disease, no one in my family has it. 20,000 soldiers from
Desert Storm have already died from this and 80,000 are supposed to be
dead by 2013 with it. I also spent 15,000 for private counseling for
PTSD since I have been out. To me it was a miracle that he was even
able to function, I don’t even like to entertain the thought of losing
a child on top of everything he has been through.
A little further up the road a car pulls over and a woman gets
out and asks what I am doing and I tell her. She is crying and tells
me that she tried to commit suicide last year. She said I passed you
and God told me to see you, I have learned to listen when he talks to
me, he loves obedience. I said, I can hear him if I am quite long
enough and I think he has a special place in his heart for the
rebellious, she laughs and said, he has a lot of places in his heart.
I am glad I saw you, you changed my life, God bless you and be
careful. I said I don’t have to worry, I’ve got back up. She gave me
20 and said get the best lunch you can and left.
October 7 Thursday: Arriving in Oakland a woman pulled over and after
learning why I am walking with my sign she offered to buy me lunch at
Mikey D’s which I graciously accepted. We talked for a few moments
then she left me to take her grand daughter to the park. While eating
I noticed 6 men in suits at a table near me, when they got up I asked
how their business meeting went. One man told me they are all in
different business, but were there as Jehovah witness’s. I said, I
was going to ask you to sign the petition, but know that you don’t
like to get involved in anything. He agreed and wished me luck, I
said my luck is your signature so you aren’t doing anything for me.
He said we like to work one on one. I said oh, so if I send homeless
Vets to you, you will feed and shelter them, he said, of course. I
said I will put you on our resource page if you will do that. I hope
his idea of food isn’t just the word of God because to a person whose
stomach is empty, words just aren’t enough. I find that I can hear
you much better after you feed me.
October 8th Friday: I took the day off, it is the first time since I
started this walk across the country. I decided to do it after
dragging myself through 12 miles and having worn a hole in my foot
till it bled. I will also take tomorrow off and swim so that my feet
and legs get a break in the routine.
How do mortals do this day in and day out thing without going
crazy or are they all crazy?
October 9th Saturday; A friend told me that I inspired him because I
have put my life on hold for my beliefs. Most people would never
think of taking a day off for others let alone 2 years, I said, jezs
I never thought of that, maybe that’s why I went out and did it.
Thinking could be over rated and used as an excuse not to do anything.
October 10th Sunday: My first day back at the office after two days
of loafing around. It was a quite day maybe because it was a Sunday
morning near Malls on route 64 in Lakeland. When I got back to the
campsite, another camper had pulled in along side of us. It was a
brand new 40 footer with stuff that should be on space shuttles. I
talked to the owner and he went on and on about there is no cable here
and he has to dump his holding tank because it has salt water in it.
Before he got his second wind I told him not to get jealous of our 25
foot well lived in Winnebago and told him what thelongwalkhome.org
stood for that was printed on the side. He was quite a moment then
said jokingly, what your doing pales before my problems, I said, yeah
Another camper present said her brother in law was never the same
after he came back from the war. As I sat in our camper I thought how
human it is to look for peace and never find it, believing we have
found it only to be denied. Here is a guy you would think is on top
of the world and you know that cable or fresh water won’t give him
peace. How so any young adult that has horrors a part of their life?
How can they begin to find peace if we deny them the tools to find it?
Or allow them a time and place to talk of it to release that demon
that eats them from the inside out?
October 11, Monday: Today no one ask what my sign means, except for 2
TV stations that interviewed me. I did however ask a young man for
directions who was
belligerent, yelling at me with an Indian accent, it’s not my
problem. It almost seemed funny the way it sounded, but not by the
look on his face. It was obvious it wasn’t his problem, I was the one
who didn’t know where I was! His problem was different then mine; it
wasn’t about finding the right street.
October 12, Tuesday: It was 7:30am on Jackson St. in Tenn when a man
yelled out what does your sign mean. I look over and there are a
cluster of men drinking from brown paper bags and one man smoking. I
go over to them and smell reefer and the beer on their breath as I
tell them what the sign means. As they sign one notices I have no
shoes and asks why. I tell him it is a memorial for my friends that
died because of Viet Nom, his eyes get glassy and he turns and leaves
saying he has to go. One of the others has his chevrons safty pinned
to his hat, he was a Lance Corporal in USMC 1969 to 71.
I walk through broken glass and human desecration and remember
the nicer neighborhoods I have walked through and wonder about the
differences. I think that what separates them is the poor have
thinner walls in their homes that are close together so you can hear
the fights. There is broken beer bottles and drug paraphernalia all
over the road, the rich put theirs in garbage cans so the streets are
clean. The poor say it is everyone Else’s fault, but theirs, the rich
usually only blame God their parents or the other political party. So
it would seem to me the only difference is appearance and the number
of people blamed for what is happening. The poor live in what they
think about themselves as so do the rich. Where does it start and
end? It begins with each one of us and that is where it is finished.
I was at the Jefferson park where I asked a homeless man if he
would sign after telling him why I walked with the sign. He said he
wouldn’t because they should put the past behind them just like he did
after doing 2 tours. He is 62 and living on a park bench, he really
got on with his life, so he claims. I said if you served your
entitled to some benefits, he said, I don’t want anything from them,
fuck’um. It seemed strange for he had no problem asking me for 20
bucks if I wanted his picture for the website.
October 13 Wednesday: It is 6:30am, still dark as tractor trailers
fly by me as I walk over the Missippii River into Arkansas. In that
darkness as I look out over the river I see a becon of light cut
through the night, as I focus on it, it brings to mind times when I
was out at sea. We could tell when we were getting close to home as
we saw the lights and would focus in on them to find my way to shore.
A soldier comes home focusing on loved ones to find thier way back,
not quite making it because of a change in perception creating
obsticals. Let us help them find their way around them.
Not to long after getting off the bridge the Tenn. police have a
little going away party for me by passing me off to the Arkansas State
Police. When the State Police arrived for this ceremony they told me
I had two opptions, the firt was to go to jail, I asked what the
second was, he replied, a fine. Neither one sounded very appealing to
me. I told him what I was doing and why and that I used the walk way
they had over the bridge and walked in the grass off the interstate to
make it to rt 70. He went to his mobile office with my liscence and
came back saying we will stay with you here till you get a ride to rt
70. We have no problem with what you are doing, but we can’t have you
on a Thruway, I told him I understand and was told I could walk over
the bridge by a local.
I asked the officer what his name was, he said, Trooper Collins.
I said that is an unusual first name who gave it to you, your mother
or father. He smiled and said, my mother. I said goodbye Trooper,
and we parted ways.
At the end of the day after getting to walk again we got a call
from Congressman Roe’s aid to tell us that the Congressman would sign
our petition. Valeria and I were very happy campers.
October 14, Thursday: Met John Ulstrom with ourforgottenwarriors.org
who started walking from Texas headed to Washington D.C. for the same
thing we are. What are the odds of that? We shared notes, encouraged
one another and followed different paths on the same journey. When
you get a chance please check him out.
October 15, Friday: A man stopped me on the road and after listening
to what I had to say said he wants to think about it and sign on the
website after he has made an educated decision. I respect a person
that asks questions and takes time to make a move, that is an informed
citizen and they act without fear for they have knowledge. I meet so
many people that don’t know, don’t want to know and tend to live in a
constant state of fear, enabling them to be victims so nothing is ever
After my jaunt Valeria and I visited the Museum in Forrest City
it was one of the most surprising little stops we made. It was an old
house donated by a Doctor that had died years ago leaving the 6th
largest collection in the state of Indian Artifacts. It seems when
his patients didn’t have much money he would barter for oddities, it
seemed he took care of a lot of poor people.
We found the curator’s nephew is going over to the Middle East, he
wanted to be a soldier since he was 10. She said she is concerned,
even though he wants to go, she knows it is still going to have an
impact on him that he isn’t prepared for.
October 16 Saturday: Last night we had talked to Amanda, Congressman
Phillip Roe’s Aid who informed us that Congressman Roe would sign our
petition 7:30am at the Peabody in Tenn. We backtracked from Forrest
City and spent the night at George and Bev’s house, he is with
Veterans for Peace. They support us as well as VFW’s and American
Legions, we take help from anyone because this is an issue that
transends politics. It effects us all no matter what our beliefs,
politics, color, age or creed.
7:30am As Congressman Roe walked to the check out I intercept
him and introduce myself to him and his aid. We sat down and
presented him with the petition which he reads in it’s entirity and
As he reads it I remember a reporter complaining about Cong. Roe
saying he is a lousy politician and I asked why. His reply was
because he reads the whole bill himself. I said, isn’t that what we
want, patriots, we already have enough politicians?
After he signed it I said, I am honored to meet a patriot because
every politician I have approached has said no, telling me that it is
political. He smiles and shakes his head, they are politicians that
is what they are supposed to do.
He said he would help us get an appointment with the President
and to get others to make a request as well. He said he would have us
speak to the Veteran Affairs Committee and to stay in touch.
When we got back to George’s he told us how he slept in a car for
10 years after he got out of the military because it was such a
radical Transition. In the military he didn’t have to make any
decisions. After awhile he became a teacher in the military, the only
civilian among 4,000 enlisted the short timer’s would come up to him
showing him their beads. Each bead represented a day they had left. He
said be carefully what you wish for because what are you going to tell
people after you are out?
October 17, Sunday: When I started my walk and looked at my watch, it
was 9:11. I wonder would I be walking if 9:11 hadn’t occurred or
would I still be out here walking for an issue that wouldn’t be
getting the press it is?
Getting to the camper I got a call from Bob the Unknown
Veteran who has been working with us getting signatures. He
introduced me to Daniel, ex-army, he survived a suicide attempt, and
was put in the VA psychiatric shut down. He said, I guess that God
has other plans for me, and he was been working since to help those
others on the brink.
October 18, Monday; I had walked through Brinkly past miles and miles
of cotton fields where it was so dry the dirt that wasn’t stone was
dust into Cotton Plant. It had looked at one time that these two
towns were large and prosperous, but now it was a collection of closed
buildings, especially Cotton Plant which is all but a Ghost Town.
What happened here was so sudden you can’t miss the effects.
What is happening because of PTSD is like a cancer that we cover up
with some make up until one day there won’t be enough to cover up.
October 19, Tuesday: Today was a day for ducks and barefoot hikers, a
rainy day in Arkansas where the hard baked dirt on the side of the
road has turned to mud and my lips aren’t sun burnt, Thank you God. I
didn’t interact with another soul till my walk was done and I went
into a store to ask if we could keep the camper in their parking lot
for the night.
When I first go in I notice apprehension, but when I finish
telling our story the manager said we can help. Within 10 minutes we
are sharing lunch with them and hearing their stories of colateral
damage. How one of their fellow workers because of a loud sound was
transported in an instant back to a time and place he had put behind
him. Another one’s brother-in-law was on the brink of suicide and
they didn’t know how to help. This is just one store I went into
where the men didn’t even know these things about one another, none of
us is alone.
October 20, Wednesday: After walking 15 miles with a few people
waving to me with no more interaction then getting a captured audience
to sign (the clerks in a gas station) we stopped for the day at a
cousins in Jacksonville. We hugged, we laughed, we cried we shared
food and memories. We have a bond that transcends time and distance
our shared memories bring us back to different times and when we talk
about them it sheds a different light on them. Soldiers are no
different then us, why do they get treated so differently? They only
have different memories and we helped with that, either by our action
or lack of it.
October 21, Thursday: I walked into Cabot and across the street I
noticed a young man and his Grandmother watching me, I wave, they
waved. I yell across the street, we are working to make it mandatory
that all military personnel get counseling prior to discharge, would
you sign our petition, thy nod yes. As I go to cross the street I
notice a car coming so I stop and let it race by as the woman driving
looks up and makes eye contact and yells something out behind her
closed window. I get across and the Grandmother said, sure I’ll sign
that. At first the Grandson says, Oh, I don’t know if I can sign
that. As his Grandmother signs he said, I had a friend who came back
from Iracq and said he wasn’t going to live to see his 30th birthday,
we didn’t pay any attention and he hung himself on his 30th birthday,
I guess I could sign. After he signs a reporter comes and interviews
me and them, while she is doing so a lady pulls up in the driveway.
She asks are you OK are you going to commit suicide. After I say I am
OK and not committing she reams me out for jumping in front of her and
trying to commit suicide, how I would have ruined her life if I did
and for God’s sake get some shoes on.
After the tirade she lets me know she’s doing it out of love and
asks what she can do to help me. I say, sign the petition, which she
said she was to upset to do, but will because her ex was military and
he needed it. So I say here is my card, you can sign on line. She
said is there anything else I could do, I say sure you could make a
donation, which she didn’t even hear, so I said, forward our website
to your friends. I would like to see the fruit that love tree bears.
October 22 Friday; Today as I walked route 89 into Otto a reporter
stopped to interview me, as he took pictures a young man with his wife
and new born stopped and yells out his window, what are you doing? As
I tell him and he gets out of his car telling us he is on vacation and
wants to know why they should get counseling before they get out of
boot camp. Before I finish telling him, he nods his head and says,
yeah we have a lot of boots committing suicide before they making it
to the sand box. As I explain the second point, he say’s, I don’t
have a problem, I said you may not, but your buddy may. He is about
to sign, to help his friends as the reporter comes around from the
back of the car after talking to his wife to get contact info to use
in the article. The young man’s whole countenance changes in a split
second as his eyes narrow, he balls his fists and he leans forward
yelling who gave you that info, cross it out, I don’t want you to use
it, I know how you newspaper people twist things around and lie, cross
it out now. As he closed the gap between himself and the reporter.
The reporter crosses it out, the young man says thats not good enough
so the reporter tears it off and hands it to him like it might be able
to protect him.
After getting the paper he goes to his wife and yells at her as
she holds the baby and we watch as she cowers in her seat. He comes
back to me and still wants to sign, but can’t put the pen to paper as
he realizes we will have his information. I tell him not to sign and
not to be angry with his wife, she only meant well. He looks at me
and said, I guess I was a little harsh with her. I tell him I
understand, giving him my card after shaking his hand telling him to
call anytime he wants. After he gets in his car and leaves, the
reporter is sweating and I say, that is why I do this, no family
should have to live in that fear, how do you think that child will
grow up? I hope you can convey the experience you just had with your
October 23, Saturday; I walked through Otto and Vilonia towards
Conway having only one lady stop to thank me for what I am doing and
buy me dinner. After Valeria picked me up she was hell bend on going
to this particular Resturant, Grampa’s in Cabot. Finaly learning on
this odessy it is unwise to mess with a woman on a mission, besides
she’s driving so I agree. After arriving there and sitting down to
eat we tell the waitress what we are doing, she signs the petition
then disappears with it into the kitchen and comes out with a young
lady. This 18 year old girl wants to hear our story, after we tell
her she tells us her sister committed suicide a year and a half ago
and she was the one to find her hanging in the barn. She has just
started taking medication for she sees her sister everyday. We have a
long talk were she tells us the VA won’t help her because she isn’t in
the service. We ask her to start a support group to help others which
will help her. I ask her to walk with me tomorrow, she says yes.
October 24, Sunday: This morning Faith who we talked to yesterday
walked with me. As we walked she talked about her sister and smiled
as she remembered the good times they shared. She realized her sister
was in so much pain she didn’t see a way out, not considering the
consequences of her actions. Faith said, it’s interesting that you
started your journey on June 1st, that is the day my sister committed
October 25, Monday; Got TV coverage yesterday from a young man who
was passionate about our cause because it touched his life. He said,
my mother tried to commit suicide twice and I wonder will I when I get
her age? She looked OK on the outside, but you couldn’t tell what was
going on inside. Lately a lot of men I have come across have cried as
we got into the topic. They cry for their children, what they regret
and what may come.
October 26 Tuesday: Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 in AR escorted us to
the VA in Russellville, we met them several days ago and agreed to
speak with them. Upon arriving they hadn’t known we were coming, but
agreed to let us speak for Rolling Thunder. The leader here got up
and said, 3 days ago I saw a story and here he is. Valeria and I
spoke, when we were finished they were crying as they gave us a
standing ovation. The speakers after us threw away their notes and
spoke from their hearts of their experiences that brought them to this
Later I talked to Rhino, the chapter President and said that was
the shortest into I ever heard. He said, I like to be suttle, like a
rock through a wind shield.
October 27, Wednesday: As I stepped outside the camper I turn around
as I hear someone yell out Hey. A man comes over to me with his hand
extended, saying, I’d like to thank you for what you are doing, people
just don’t get it, I was a Marine in Korea. I ask him to sign the
front of our camper and as he does he tells me his first year he was
stationed in Washington DC where he buried 8 to 9 Marines a day. It
got to me so I asked to be sent anywhere and they sent me to Korea.
Just a block down the road I come to a drive in liquor Store
where 3 men and a woman are getting something to start the day off. 2
men and the woman are Vets, they bless me for what I am doing, sign,
give money and she tells me her ex husband came home from the war and
he had changed so much they couldn’t make it work, then he committed
suicide. She finished her last sentence with tears.
Near the end of my walk a young man pulls over in a truck and
asks what I am doing, when I tell him he signs and says he recently
got out of the USMC. He said, I handled it better then a lot for I
followed my order and believed in what I did. A lot of them didn’t do
so well, I’ve seen things I wouldn’t want any man to see, I can
October 28, Thursday; I left the town of Atkins this morning and when
I made it into Pottsville I was waved across the street which was
under construction. They were a few years older then me and both
Vets. I jokingly said when are you going to put fish in your pond as
I looked at this gapping hole with these monstours pipes sticking out
of the ground and a hill of ripped up asphalt right next to his
driveway, making his yard look like Bearut after a bombing.
He was upset because the state told him what they were going to
give him for his land and if he didn’t like it he could go to court.
When he talked to the road crew they just laughed at him and tore up
his whole front yard. He said he was ready to join one of these
groups to bear arms. A minute later he asks if I am right with the
Lord, I said who do you think sent me walking, he said, I just had to
ask. I said that I think God might have a different plan then
shooting the road crew and politicians. He said there is a time to
From what I could see it wasn’t so much the Government doing this
to him as it was how he was being treated by the people working in it.
Maybe when the people of a country don’t care, it is the country not
October 29, Friday; I started late because it was 33 degrees before
daylight, I wanted to give the sun time to warm the pavement. Not
long after I started a car with 3 women in it pulled over, the driver
seemed familiar. When they reached me she said, I met you at the
opening of the VA in Russellville and these are 2 of the woman that
work with me that wanted to met you. We talked of how effective it is
to change a person because it is people that change the country not
the country changing people. They knew my weakness and brought me
chocolate and hot coco, saying that now I could run my 10 plus miles
As I was ending my walk at a gas station outside of Delaware a
woman wanted to know what I was doing so I told her and a man came up
and said when he had come back from Viet Nam he didn’t realize he had
a problem as he tried to drink himself to death. He finally got help
after being run around and even after he got help he was pushed aside,
the new vets took priority. While we were speaking a man stuck his
head out the passenger side of the car his girlfriend drove to thank
me for what we are doing. He told me his father committed suicide
last year because of things he had seen and done. He said, I had
wanted to go into the military when I got out of school in the 60′s,
but my father wouldn’t let me. He cried as he told me; I wonder how
old you have to be not to cry anymore?
October 30 Saturday; I stopped at a yard sale where the people
running it fixed me lunch and talked about how they want this war
over, so their family can be united again. They question the sence of
this War and the others. Being Veterans they followed orders, but
after coming home having the luxery of time they wonder did we do the
How can we win a war when the soldiers hands are tied behind
their backs by politicans. A Vet told me that his sons are in the
Military and that if they shoot someone who throws a grenade at them
they can be brought up on charges of manslaughter for shooting an
unarmed man. Am I missing something here or is this insane, you go to
defend your country and then can go to prison in your country for
Had a hero’s welcome into Paris riding in the sidecar of a
motorcycle driven by Randel Zimmer head of Disabled Vets.
October 31, Sunday; It started out cold, but ended hot on my walk.
During it a pick up truck did a U turn and a man jumped out to thank
me and say God bless you,I am a member of the Christian Motorcycle
Association and I like what you are doing. Of the 500 Marines he went
over to Viet Nam with only 3 made it home, he said he put a song on a
CD about it. I said, I would like to hear that, he told me he didn’t
have one with him. He has 100% disability for PTSD, his wife is
devoricing him and he is losing his house, he signed the petition and
headed on to church. Ten minutes later he came back again, crossed
the street, with tears in his eyes he said, God told me to give you
all the money I had on me as he handed me his CD and all the money he
had on him.
IN Paris I met a biker headed to a Viet Nam Veterans bikers
meeting who said he would pass the word on, after he invited me to his
home for breakfast. I got some education about bikers. The 1%er’s
are the outlaws and it used to be if you wore 3 patches the outlaws
would tear off your colors, beat you, leave you in a ditch and
sometimes kill you. He told me that doesn’t happen so much any more.
November 1st Monday; After I finished walking we went to the school
here in Paris and talked to a group of students which I find rewarding
because when we talk I can tell they are listening, hopefully we say
something that will be the catalyst to inspire them. What I found
interesting was that not only did the students stay to talk with us
about their stories, but the teachers also shared about their
experiences of their fathers after they came back from the War.
Later that night we went in support of Randall, Ron, Larry, Jim,
Danial, Larry and other members of the DAV to the Town Hall Meeting
and witnessed them getting their building to assist other vets in the
area. What a great group of men and women working to help others, it
is all strictly volunteers.
November 2nd Tuesday; I was told everything I write is about someone
crying. My father used to tell me, if you don’t cry you don’t care,
after he would say things to make us cry like you don’t love me. In
Arkansas we crossed the trail of tears which seems appropriate since
we started this journey the whole walk has been America’s Trail of
Tears. From the birth of our Nation at Concord Mass. along Paul
Revere’s Ride to Ground Zero then retreat of the Civil War to The
Trail of Tears hearing the tales of Veterans and those left behind
from a suicide past and present. Yes everyday my stories are of
America’s Tears as a WW II Vet cries treating me to lunch crying
telling me the names of the loved ones he lost to War.
November 3,Wednesday; After I walked to the out skirts of Fort Smith
we went to the VFW. Mike Skidmore, the Commander of the Post and
Edward Lavallee, the State Commander of Arkansas couldn’t do enough
I talked to Ed about images because I said I hadn’t gone into
American Legions or VFW’s much because I thought it was an old mans
drinking club, but now I see it different. They give out millions for
scholarships and reach out to help other Vets. I told him my image
wasn’t so hot back home because of my past. It is easier to remember
the negative and assume the worst if that’s what you see.
November 4, Thursday; Made it into Oklahoma after going through Fort
Smith. Met several people today that had a suicide in their family
related to the military. As they start to share, their eyes water and
their voice starts to break up. Why is it that we think there is
something different about a Vet when he does that? What! Because he
was a soldier he’s not human or is it because we asked them to do the
unspeakable and now if we let them talk about it’s harder to deny
November 5, Friday; In Spiro Oklahoma a member of the road crew
stopped me to sign the petition. As he did he said, my nephew just
came back and he needs help now, stay hard on their asses. I met
several people whose loved ones have never been the same, one said now
my sister has no life. A lot of old vets saluted me today after
signing, telling me how the VA would ignore them until they persisted
in getting what was promised. Why is the military treated like it is
a business instead of people making the ultimate commitment to our
One young man yelled out his truck, Fagot, then as I approached
he speed away screaming FAGOT. Nothing like getting another
November 6 Saturday; Today I took a break from carrying my sign, but
I still meet Veterans. One in particular was a POW, but technically
by the law he wasn’t because he hadn’t been held for 28 days or more,
just 14 days. What’s that all about? One day being tortured would
be more then enough for me. His records were destroyed in front of him by his
commanding officer. It seems funny when I remember Paris Hilton or
someone like that was in jail for minutes, it was such big news and
here is a guy putting his life on the line and they wipe out a segment of his life with the swipe of a hand.
November 7 Sunday; Walked 20 miles and got a call from a woman whose
son is in the hospital after being blown up by and IED. They are
trying to discharge him while he is still in the Hospital. She is
upset that he wont get any more help soon as he is released.
November 8 Monday; A mini van pulled over and a Marine combat veteran
came over and invited me to his home. He is on 22 different
medications for pain, ailments and side effect of the medication he is on for PTSD that he got during his tour in
the Middle East which was ended by an IED. He is going to school so
he can get a job to continue to contribute to his country and not be a
burden. Who could blame him if he quite trying, most people would
quite because it is the easy thing, it may not be right, but it is
November 9 Tuesday; In Stigler OK it is warm and windy and it seems I
have heard more stories of suicide in OK then anywhere else so far.
Is it because in rural area’s more people join the military as a way
to advance, are they more patriotic? I think it is a combination, but
because of it the war has a greater impact on their lives as I met my
first person whose brother killed his child and wife before committing
suicide. If suicide was a plague the bible belt is the epic center.
November 10, Wednesday; Today was the Marine Corps birthday and I
called my Marine, Tony who I have been in trouble with since we were 5, before we went into the Marine’s together. Also I met a reporter from Ufallia OK that is
one of another group that fights as hard as any Marine; a Mother of a
Soldier in trouble. He wasn’t getting the help he needed after coming back from an operation that took it’s toal on him, she was relentless until he got the help he needed and was entitled
November 11, Thursday; I started the day off with my birthday ritual,
swimming naked, which I do to remind me I came from the sea and I truly have nothing that wasn’t given to me. With this in mind I am gratefull for what I have.
Later as I walked a mother and her children stopped me on the road to
find out what I was doing. When I told her she shared how they had
gone to a 3rd world country to help and ended up getting stabbed,
robbed and had no one to help them. It seems people like to hear
about misfortune, but don’t want to get involved.
We hooked up with the VFW in Eufaula who feed us, spread our
petition around, gave us a place to stay and money for food
and gas on our trip. They are involved with many things to help the
community as well as getting a cake for my birthday, it seems people
are worried about me losing weight, God Bless them.
November 12, Friday; It was overcast as I walked through miles of
prairie being uninterrupted till I stopped at a gas station for a
break. As I was leaving a woman rolling up in her car asked if she
could take a picture, I said, sure, if you sign our petition. She
said, sure. While signing she said, I have 9 close family members who
are military and told how her uncles helped a fellow Veteran who had
been a prisoner of war on the Philippine Islands, they found him
staked out on the beach with bamboo jambed in his mouth. People had
thought he was crazy after he got back, but as his story came out
because of her uncles, which wasn’t till late in the 80′s they started
to understand why.
What is it that they say about first impressions?
November 17, Wednesday; As I walked out of Seminole OK I noticed a
young man in fatigues carrying his military issued backpack on the opposite side of
the street walking in the other direction. I crossed over to talk to
him as he stared at my sign. I asked if he would sign the petition, at which he
mumbled incoherently refusing to make eye contact and continued on his
It is easier to reach them before they get home., the paint is still wet
November 18, Thursday; Most days I walk, 3 to 5 people make an effort
to stop. Today within the span of 20 minutes a young man stopped and
talked about his 2 tours and how 2 fellow soldiers resently came home
on leave. One beat their spouse and the other was going to kill his
family, but just ended up holding the gun to his head. Another young
man slowed down enough to curse and give me the finger. And my final
visitor for the day was in the Coast Guard in the late 60′s, they told
him he would be saving chicks in bikini’s. He ended up going up
rivers in Viet Nom, he didn’t see any chicks up there. He said
politicians are like hemorrhoid, no matter what you call them they
Friday November, 19; On my way to Big Pink (Norman) from Pink (the area is called Pink because the church there was painted pink)I was
stopped by a local police officer who before he asked me what I was
doing wanted to see both my hands. He seemed a little up tight saying
someone said my sign read, Commit Suicide. I replied, obviously he
didn’t take my advise. He wouldn’t sign the petition because he was
on duty, so I gave him our card and told him to sign on the website.
Went to lunch with a family who does ministry with horses. They
asked how Jesus fit into what we were doing, I said, who do you think
got me to walk? They didn’t question me further and helped support
our efforts with a donation because they saw our actions where our
loudest prayer. We also went to the Oklahoma VFW headquarters,
American legion, Disabled American Vets and saw Sgt Grit.
November 20, Saturday; The family we met yesterday stopped me on the
road to wish me luck and get a picture for the local paper. The same
cop from yesterday stopped me again and said, you didn’t get to far
did you? I said I had things to do yesterday, did you check out our
website and sign the petition? He said, no. I said stick out your
hand, so he did then I smacked it and said, now are you going to sign
it? He gave me a sheepish grin and said Yes. Two red trucks stopped, one after the
other, the person in the first truck gave me a history lesson about why we are in the trouble we are. I thought he would never stop and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing other then talking and wanting someone else to do something, so I finally told him that I was on a mission and had to continue. The others in the second truck stopped to sign the
petition. The young couple said they saw me earlier, looked up our web sight then came to see me to personally sign the petition. Who do you like more, truck number 1 or number 2?
Monday November 22; Today a woman stop to tell me that she is seeing
this a lot on TV and someone should do something about it. She left
as fast as she came, I wonder who this someone is she is referring to?
I was told by someone working in the VA they refuse everyone
that applies because 80% give up. Then out of the 20 that try again
only 2 will go on. Sounds like my issue with ATT on reimbursing me
for money they have been taking on a disconnected line. They got what they wanted, my money because I got so angry I would never deal with them again because I would be so upset that they could just lie to me and steal my money then give me the run around, didn't they have enough, oh wait a minute, it's the share holders.
November 23, Tuesday; As I walked out of Tuttle into Manico a pick up
rolled to a stop in front of me and a young man stepped out crying.
Thank you for what you are doing I have a younger brother that went in
after 9/11 to do some good, after 8 years they discharged him for
medical reasons. The first Platoon he was in everyone got killed, but
him; the next platoon everyone got killed but him and he was torn to
shreds by an IED. Schrapnel through his neck, liver, back, he is also
deaf, and has PTSD. He had to fight to get 40% disability so now
after his wife left he and his handicapped son who lost his SC benifts
live on 800 a month and he is unable to get a job. I am afraid every
day that he will committ suicide. Welcome home soldier.
I wonder how many different ways this story will be told before the ending will be changed?
November 24, Wednesday; As I walked the highway a young man, looked
to still be in high school yelled out, Moron as he drove by. It’s always nice to know your on the right track. Half and hour
later 2 high school girls stopped to find out what I was doing then made a special trip to bring me something to drink.
Before ending the day I came to a Deli in the middle of no where,
it was an oasis. Everyone signed the petition and talked about people
they knew affected first hand by the war. They continued to talk
politics as they sat on the bench by the road in front of the store.
It seems no matter who or where I go everyone talks politics and some
ideas are great, but it doesn’t matter if they are never carried out.
November 25, Thursday; We drove up to Enid and spent the day with my
cousin. We should give thanks that one of the things all military
personnel are trained to do is defend their country and protect the
people in it. If they weren’t we could have 18 McVey’s a day on the
lose instead of 18 suicides, bet we would find a way to change that real
November 26, Friday; Stopped at a tire store before walking and one out
of the 5 that signed the petition said when his son had gotten
discharged he was unable to get work because he had been in the
military. This caused him to go into a depression; what is it they say
about idle hands?
November 27, Saturday; On my way to Eakly Oaklahoma through Binger on route
152, a vet with one leg stopped to offer a lift. I turned it down,
but we talked about a civilian mentality apposed to a military one.
He said, I have to get out of the house and drive around to get some
space from my wife who has no idea how I look at things after my
training in the military.
A little while later a married couple my age stopped to give me
lunch and find out what I was doing. They told me their son had come
home after several tours while in the Marines. His buddy just got
home and is going through a divorce and will be moving in with their
It would be great if we could prepare them for their next
greatest job, being a health American raising a family.
November 28, Sunday; I walked with 25mph winds from the SW gusting up
to 40mph winds. No one stopped and I can’t blame them.
November 29, Monday; Walked out of Eakly into Cordell where out of
the 5 that signed the petition one has a brother that had come home
recently. He wishes he would go for help because he isn’t doing so
well since he has been home.
November 30, Tuesday; A lot of people passed me today and only one
person, a lady stopped to ask if I needed a ride and offered me a
drink. She had gotten out of her car ran to me then walked back to her car shivering and crying after telling me how it affected her.
The weather reminded me of this summer when I didn’t want to know how
hot it was, now I don’t want to know how cold or windy it was
December 1, Wednesday; At the end of my walk a mother pulled over and
wanted to know what the sign was about. Her son shot himself with a 40
caliber gun and lived after the bullet went through both frontal
lobes, blinding him as well as causing other brain damage. She had
been with him 2 hours before he did it and there was no indication
that he had any problem. There is an average of one suicide a month
in the schools in this rural area of Oklahoma. Does one person
committing suicide give another permission to do the same?
December 3, Fruday; When I walked into Sayre 2 men, who
a father and son who filled the cab of the late model pickup they were
riding in stopped and asked what I was doing. After I finished
telling them he smiled and said, if you were going to committee
suicide I would give you my gun, I said I’m not but, I’ll take the gun
anyway and will you sign, he said, no and wouldn’t give me his gun.
Guess he figured he wouldn’t get it back, and drove off laughing. I
assume he was never in because those that were in tell me, isn’t it
great that our soldiers died to protect the rights of people like
I am now getting my kicks on hwy 66 when a man that had served in
WWII stopped and couldn’t understand why Vets were killing themselves.
I said your war was the last one where you were all hero’s fighting a
force of evil where everybody pitched in. The wars since haven’t been
that way and many of them lost what they fought for when they return
home. He said, I don’t have any problems, I said, I’m glad, not
everybody has the strength of conviction that you did, my father was
bothered, he cleaned out the ovens at Autswitch and watch 12 year
old’s executed that were members of the wolf pack. He said I wish you
luck, I said you don’t or you would sign the petition. He said, I’ll
sign it. He did and left. He came back an 1/2 hour later with his
friend who was in Viet Nam, who wouldn’t talk or make eye contact with
me and scribbled his name off the petition.
Highway 66 is a shadow of rte 40, which is within eye sight and
all but forgotten. A young man and woman stop me and after signing
tell me they are putting a new cross on th road side for their
mother’s memorial, she died 15 years ago. The girl was 4 at the time,
the memorial is like so many countless others that I have grown numb
to, it mattered to her and was still fresh in her memory.
The old one was knocked down by a lawn mower and run over on the
side of the road. The only ones that seem to care are the ones that
put it up. To others it’s a joke, just like to my two friends who
wanted to give me a gun.
December 4, Saturday; As I walked the wrong way down a forgotten highway, route 66, lost in silence a truck came up behind me going the wrong way. When he rolled to a stop besides me I said, you startled me sneaking up like that on me going the wrong way on a one way highway. He said, it’s Oklahoma, do you need a ride, I said, no. He told me he is a minister so I asked to speak to his congregation, he said, OK
December 5, Sunday; Valeria and I spoke at Henry’s church, Assembly of God, we discovered he was in the National Guard working on returning equip. and contracted a rare blood disease and is denied any
help from the VA. His wife was in the Marines and was discharged for
medical reasons. They aren’t bitter or angry and still love this
country, just disappointed in their treatment.
After leaving them it is hard for me to believe they aren’t angry
especially when he gets so sick he has to use a walker and is unable
to work or take care of his family. Who was it that said, give me
your down trodden?
December 6, Monday; At the end of my walk out of Shamrock we were
invited by Gene, the Post Commander of the American legion there to see his herd of
Buffalo. I was in awe of them as I stood amongst them as they came to eat. They are able to jump 8 feet in the air, it was like standing next to explosive energy in motion. I feel they are a symbol of America. Later at the post we talked about our plans to acquire property making a retreat for Vets that have fallen through the cracks.
December 7, Tuesday; Made it to McLean where we were received with
open arms. They have a museum here displaying Devil’s Rope, another
name for barbed wire. An appropiate name for something used in every
War and to restrict man and beast alike off from what was once theirs.
December 8, Wednesday; Today as I walked I saw Santa driving a Fed Ex truck and I thought, Santa I have been pretty good, so for Christmas I was hoping you could give me the glue to mend a million broken hearts and the fire that will replace the light extinguished in the eyes of all those who have lost a loved one to suicide?
We met a nephew of Davey Crockett which is interesting as we have seen his Great Uncle’s handy work all through Tenn. What are the odds, wonder if there’s any message in that? Of the three men in his store 2 were Vets and one is still punishing himself for it.
December 9, Thursday; My second day walking on interstate 40 a youngman stopped his car and came over with 2 sodas to say thanks for what I am doing, he’s a medic in the Army, been in Iraq and getting out in 2013. As I walk across Texas I think how similar it is to the Ocean I grew up on, that sense of vastness. I felt it was something so large it couldn’t be contained, making me feel free. Did the first Cowboys and Sailors ever think anyone could own what they traveled across? Now with the aid of Devils rope and laws they are both penned in and so is the freedom of those that crossed them. Maybe the only free people are those that are fearless, that can’t be contained with laws and Devil’s rope; can it? We ended the day at a cross in Groom Texas that is 190 height we literally slept in it’s shadow.
December 10, Friday; Before Valeria drove me to my starting point she
cracked open an energy drink. I told her the sound reminded me of my
father pulling the tab on a Budwizer before breakfast and telling me I
drove him to drink. Shee responded without missing a beat, it’s
amazing he ever quit. I laughed.
We never really change things by law, I used to think I could change
somebody by manipulate them, but it wasn’tt a lasting change. Up north
a lot of the patriotism seemed to be for financial gain. Here I
don’t see many signs in the windows, but I see more support of our soldiers.
In Texas they believe freedom is worth dying for, but it
doesn’t seem so clear with these wars, it’s not the Alamo
December 12, Sunday; Got escorted by one of Texas,s finest, the State Police off of I 40. Talking with them, one told me he had been in the Coast Guard. He asked if anyone had a problem with me I told him that Vets were the angrest with me because the sight of me brings up issues they haven’t resolved. Before he gave me a ride he asked if I had any illegal weapons, I said I don’t know, I just have this knive and showed him. He said it’s not illegal, it has to be over 5 1/2 inchs long. I get in the back seat then he radio’s in, saying I had to do that so they know where I am in case you stab me. He shared that his father was in the Air Force over in Viet Nam and been angry ever since. He hates the Government, doesn’t trust the politicians and resents me for being a policeman. He signed the petition.
December 13, Monday; . I was interviewed by channel 7 on my walk
past Bushland from Amarillo Texas. Later Valeria and I met with Jack
Barnes from America Supports Texas. When we talked one of the things
that disturted him most was the death of two of the young men whose
family didn’t want them on his list of fallen Hero’s because they had
committed suicide. He slumped a little in his chair and got that
distant look and wisphered they answered the call like all the rest
and their families won’t even acknowledge them, it’s a tragidy. What
do you do?
December 14, Tuesday; Last night Jack Barns from America supports Texas asked me what has been my greatest challenge, I couldn’t really answer him. Walking this morning I realized my greatest challenge at times has been to continue to walk only having 12,000 signatures after 7 months with lots of media coverage. I drift to the edge of if they don’t care why should I, does it matter, but I always come back to I care, it matters to me and this has become more then getting signatures. After that internal conversation a woman stopped and said, I saw you on the news and I wanted to see someone who cared, I come from a military family and it is a shame. the way they are treated. After she signed the petition she turned around and drove another 10 miles back to Amarillo. An hour later she pulls up again and says I brought you lunch and hands me a bag saying God bless the road you walk on and keep you safe, bless your petition; then gets in her car turns around and heads back to Amarillo. Opening the bag I laughed at her idea of lunch a coke, milkyway and bag of chips. Then I cry for God had sent me an Angel I didn’t see because I was looking for wings and a halo not an over weight woman with bad teeth giving me junk food. ,My hope is that today I was someones Angel and I pray that everyone is someones Angel.
December, 15, Wednesday; I walked into a steady wind of 20 mph rachetting up to 30 from Vega past Adrian. If I was a writer I would say the wind pushed my eyeballs to the back of my skull, but being a Marine I’d say it was a nice day. Crossing the town line leaving Vega a truck did a u turn and a cowboy asked what I was doing. When I told him he said he got to enjoy Viet Nam with the Army and if he had to do it over, he would be a Marine, he had developed an admiration for them overseas. He asked where I was from and I told him originaly from Long Island but, I had been down south so long I don’t even like Yankees. He laughed and wished me luck. Later a van pulled over and a young man got out handing me a bottle of water to say thanks. All of us had been in the Marines as he points to the van. I said would you all sign it, he said we’re on a mission for the Federal Gov. right now. So I hand him a card and said they can sign on our website, he said they will. They were all wearing sunglasses in an unmarked van with tinted glass and some pretty neat anteanes sticking out, did a u turn and sped away.
December 16, Thursday; Today was a day of firsts, walking in the snow, crossing another time zone, being 20 to 30 feet away from a live wolf and having a tractor trailer stop for me. One vet pulled over that has been out of the Army for 2 years saying he should have gotten some help and his friend who is still in is doing time in the brig because of PTSD. I asked him to pass it on, he said, Roger that. The other Vet that stopped said he saw me on the news and told me to be careful. I said I was and God watches over me. He said, so do a lot of other people.
December 17, Friday; I don’t understand how a man can rob a store with a gun and get life, another man robs thousands with a pen and becomes a role model. A celebrity commits suicide and it is all over the media for weeks as a tragedy and a soldier commits suicide and he is weak. I am reminded by the events of Bernie Madar and family. PTSD is caused by events lived through that are so horrible we work not to remember them. It is like sweeping dirt under the carpet so long it become visible. How come we encourage civilians to talk about their loses, whether it be the witnesses of 9/11 or a car accident, but soldiers aren’t? We are built the same, a lose is a lose, a tragedy is a tragedy; civilian or military
December 18, Saturday; Today I had been interviewed by a radio station where one of the interviewers made a remark attacking the governments roll in the present situation. I said what our government does is a reflection of what the people are doing. I look at myself first and correct that for what is the government, but us?
December 19, Sunday; I was stopped by two State Troopers who were glad I wasn’t going to committee suicide in 18 days, then he added I am glad your not committing suicide at all. I don’t write much about the kindness of all of those regular Americans, the salt of the earth that each hold us up with a meal here a few dollar their a place to spend the night and share in their lives, please forgive me it isn’t that I take it for granted. It’s just that I get so wrapped up in the plight of those pushed to the side I forget to honor those who are working everyday to do the right thing. Forgive me
December 20, Monday; Made it to Tucumcari Texas where we were feed at Jim’s Barbecue place next to his Tucumcari Ranch Supply, he even arranged the local news paper to do an interview. During the interview the reporter wanted me to make a political statement attacking the government and I said I don’t have the information to make an educated statement. My stand is not to attack anyone, who am I to judge another when I have committed every sin known to man. It is a waste of time and energy, the people or organizations I confront will only spend time defending themselves. I admire any group that works to make a peaceful difference. We are supported by group that are controversial; PTSD affects all of us from Cub Scouts to the KKK. I hope my actions speak the loudest of all, my day starts walking from 4 to 7 hours where the first thing I do is pray that I do God’s will, I pray for those affected by PTSD and the families of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. I wave to people as I walk, when people stop me I listen to their story giving them a safe place with no judgement, I cry with them I laugh with them and for some I carry a part of their burden away with me. Everyday I cry for I see the face of PTSD, I look into the eyes of those who have lost a love and I am that person for a moment as they embrace me. After I walk I get picked up and we go eat and get more signatures and talk to the media then I do the blog and answer emails. I like to watch a movie before I go to bed and when we get a chance check out local museums and always talk to locals about what we are doing. Then we do the same thing again the next day.
December 21, Tuesday; Walked from Tucumcari to exit 321 on route 40 and a Ford Bronco pulled over and the window rolled down. A young man stuck out his head and asked where I was going and if I needed a ride. I said no, but could you sign my petition to get mandatory counseling for military personnel. He said, yeah, I know about PTSD, I just got out of prison, it is a predatory environment, your never the same when you get out. I was hoping you would ride with me, I have been driving for 30 hours straight and could use the company. I said, no I want to walk, I felt torn to ride with him for he looked like he was fighting back emotions that he carried out of prison with him and could use a listening ear. It seems enough that he was punished, it doesn’t seem to end after he is released. Seems a parallel to our men fighting over seas, when is their service over as they seem to carry the war home.
December 22, Wednesday; Before my walk I got a call from my sister, she said I got a glimpse of what you feel. I had gone to UPS to resend that package to you that was returned. When I went in there was no Christmas music, or any other music for that matter, no decorations, no one made eye contact and the woman behind the counter was all business. While they were repacking it I told them what you were doing and why; one woman started crying, I started crying and the woman who was all business quietly said, my best friend came back from Iraq and has PTSD, as she looked down at the wrapping. I told her I was glad I was unable to get the package before so she could have that experience. She said, I like how you can see God’s hand in all things.
December 23, Thursday; Today a young girl stopped by the side of the road, walked to me in the freezing wind keeping her hands under her arms and walked with me past her car. Wanting to know what I did and to feel what I felt as I walked she asked questions then told me her story. She founded a suicide group in Tulsa OK after her father and cousin had committed suicide. When we parted she was crying as she said, God Bless you, through blue lips.
December 24, Friday; After finishing my walk we were invited out to dinner with 2 Vets and their wives. One had been an officer in the Air Force who retired after 21 years and the other had been in the Army for a tour to Viet Nam. My Army friend had thought he was alright till in the 80′s he had a flashback triggered by watching the news about the Gulf War. He ended up waking up in a VA hospital not knowing how he got there. He said, I will always have PTSD, but now I have tools to help me deal with it. The officer’s wife cried her son has come home but isn’t the man that went.
December 25, Saturday; We spent Christmas with Valeria’s sister and her family. She told us when her youngest daughter went to school they told her she was slow, but when she grew up would be able to be a waitress. She said, thank you very much and home schooled her daughter. She is now a mathitician holding a very good job in a highly sophistacated company. Look at how much we have already invested in our soldiers for leadership skills, team work and special skills. Just a little more would make the difference for some of them between suicide, living under a bridge, incarseration, drug and alcohol abuse or a happy and healthy life.
December 26, Sunday; Was back on the asphalt again thinking I was alone because no one stopped, I realized I’m not unique, a lot of people think they are isolated if no one interacts with them in any way. What a simple act to smile at someone, to listen to them, I know it makes a difference to me.
December 27, Monday; After walking today Valeria and I spent the rest of the day with my two sons, their wives and my Grandchildren who came from Alaska and Denver to meet us in Raton NM. I was thrilled to be in the company of those who have taught me so much about love and let me be myself. How many soldiers coming home lose their support system? 70 to 80% of those that commit suicide do so because of a failed relationship. It is interesting the resistance I get when I say we want mandatory counseling, people say it is unconstitutional. We don’t say that about sending them to boot camp even if they know how to use a weapon and are in good shape. When they come back and say I am fine nothing is wrong with me send me home, I am well adjusted and am now ready to raise a family. I think it just as crazy to say OK go raise a family, have a nice life. We are just as obligated to give them the training and tools for this job just as well as combat.
December 28, Tuesday; I didn’t walk today because it was to late to start after we got back from seeing my sons. So we stopped at a Resturant and as we were sitting there a man came up and asked, are you Ron Zaleski. As usual when a stranger asks me my name a surge of adrenilen coarses through me as my first thought is what is this about and what agency is he with. The other day I walked no one stop, but he had seen me and check out our website and was glad he spotted our camper out side so he and his wife could thank us, another Marine.
December 29, Wednesday; Today I made it to ext 243 which has a name Moligan for a town that no longer exists. Before I stopped walking a car pulled up behind me and a man got out embracing me welcoming me home. I told him I had never left because my orders where changed, he said he never went over either, but he was prepared to go at the time. He had his daughter take a picture with our backs to them to symbols what Americans do to those who answer the call to be in harms way.
December 30, Thursday; As I walked into 30mph winds a car pulled over a ways up from me, when I got closer a man of middle east origin jumped out laughing and took my picture. I yelled into the wind for him to sign the petition he laughed, ran to his car and peeled out. I went to a dark place that moment; is this a joke, am I a joke? I had planned to walk 13 miles, but only walked 9; the wind picked up to 50 mph as I walked off an exit to a gas station called Circle C as the snow went sideways and the temperature dropped. I got whipped around several times and had limited visibility, a good time to stop. The manager said they weren’t set up for camper, but after hearing what we do he went out of his way to make sure we got electric and were out of the wind, God bless random acts of kindness.
December 31, Friday; Today I didn’t walk, the winds were 30mph plus and the temperature was 8 degrees without a wind chill. I chomp at the bit feeling a sense of urgency and I am not doing enough. I want immediate gratification, but realize we are working to change an attitude that has been with us forever. Such as we are separate, no one cares, you can’t change it and the only way I know to change that is to show people and it takes time.
January 1, Saturday; Before I started Valeria checked the weather and it was 11 degrees with winds of 13 and rising. I decided that I would be unable to get in any kind of milage barefoot so I bought a pair of mocosins. When I put them on the counter, I cried; I felt I let people down. I realized it was my ego, thinking I was so bad and tough, how I did this walk wasn’t as important as doing it. I am nobody special, anybody could do what I am doing, I am just available. As I walked into the wind my feet were sweating in mocosins when a car with 3 young people in it pulled over. The girl ran up and said I read about you in Florida, you are my hero, I cried again, I’m no hero, I’m just a guy trying to do the right thing.
January 2, Sunday; Today started out with winds of 10 plus and a temperature below freezing so I wore the moccasins for most of the day. Being the near mortal that I am it still bummed me out. Walking into the wind for hours I think, what is truth, things I thought indisputable like scientific truths have changed, my truths have changed as I get more information and experiences. Today my truth is I care and I can make a difference one person at a time. It must have been the state troopers truth that stopped me today for he said to call if we need anything at all and thank me for what we are doing as I continued on the interstate.
January 3, Monday; Made it to Moriarty yesterday after 20 miles of pounding pavement and met Joe who owned the RV camp we stayed at. Before I walked today we talked, he had been a police officer who worked with gangs and left the force because of politics, now he says he’s been hiding for 7 years by not getting involved. Was interviewed by the press at the RV Camp and had a vet sign the front of camper that was a friend of Joe’s, he reminded me of Grizzly Adams holding back tears. When I finally got to walk I was interviewed by a reporter from the independent paper who was a vet. He got out from the Air Force 2 years ago, he was a photographer, as I told him why I walked his eyes welled with tears as he remembered the photos he took.
January 4, Tuesday; Spent another night at Joe’s who was kind enough to give us what we needed. I thanked him before we left and he looked like a different man, he said, you have inspired me, I am on fire. We hugged and with out words we looked into one another’s eye’s and said our goodbye. I switched to rt 66 so that I could walk by the Vet Integration Center where we will talk this Friday at 1pm. It was set up by the State Suicide Hot line, they are losing their funding and hope we can help bring awareness to this issue. A marine stopped and said your not going to light yourself up are you, when we talked he said he could help as he is active in bringing change. Several people I approached on my walk said no, I wonder if I scared them off because I wasn’t wearing a 3 piece suit and shoe’s?
January 5, Wednesday; Today I took a day off, which means I didn’t walk, but Valeria and I still enrolled people we met to sign the petition, correspond with others and talk to locals about speaking engagements. At times we find some people just want to impose their will on ua in the guise of I am concerned. You can’t do this etc., their is no hope. I think they are saying they won’t and they have no hope. Got an email from a woman who saw me on rt 66 to thank me and let me know she signed the petition, it sure pays to advertise. What do we have to do to get people to sign the petition, what do you have to do to get others to sign?
January 6, Thursday; After doing two radio spots set up for us by Laura from the State Suicide Hot Line in New Mexico she dropped me off where I had stopped coming into Albuquerque. Two policemen stopped me, the first time I have been patted down on this walk, how friendly can you get, I thought he was practicing for the airlines. After they found out what I was doing they thanked me and asked what branch I was in, I said, the Marines, is there another branch? He said if you were a Marine there wasn’t. Several people stopped to thank me and tell me they read the story in the Albuquerque Journal or heard it on the radio. One man stopped to thank me, he is a veteran with 100% PTSD disability which he has learned to deal with and counsel others in dealing with similar issues.
January 7, Friday; Today I spoke alone at the Veteran Integration Center, it wasn’t the same or as impactful as when Valeria speaks with me. She has a different perception that people can identify with. Every soldier on the front line has 7 men behind him to support him, I have one woman doing the work of 7 and I feel a great loss and emptiness when she isn’t there. At the center I was called a Hero by combat veterans who I apologized to for I don’t share that feeling. After speaking a group walked with me for a few miles. It’s good to share this journey with those that get the sense of urgency.
January 9, Sunday; When I got to the Western Boarder of Albuquerque a
large man stepped out of his truck to shake my hand. He had been in
the Army and after getting discharged he ended up dealing with his
issue of PTSD in solitary confinement. You see he won, but he lost by
beating 3 men.
Another car pulled over and a young man, through my eyes a boy.
He told me he had joined the Navy and was concerned because his future
father in law had attempted suicide when he was discharged from the
Marines and he didn’t know what to expect or what to do. I told him
when he has a problem he should talk to his father in law because he
will be able to help him through that time.
January 11, Tuesday; Today I didn’t walk and went to counseling
because how can I tell others that we are human and if anyone of us
goes through a traumatic experience it has the same effect.
I didn’t go easy, most of those I have seen who have gone for
help do so because a loved one steps up and goes through a lot to be
their advocate. I am lucky to have that advocate that does it because
they care. It has to be love because with what they have to put up
with I don’t think there is enough money for that job.
January 12, Wednesday; A Marine we met took me to breakfast and while we ate he told me
how after 4 years into his marriage of 24 years his wife became a
paraplegic. When she first went into the hospital the staff told her
that 99.9% of the marriage’s fail because of this change, while he was
standing there. He smirked, being the Marine that he was and told me,
I was trained not to leave the dead and wounded behind, she’s my
surrogate Marine. She has redefined the word courage for me. I said,
I hope I never find out if I have that courage. He said, I hope you
While at breakfast work was being done on the camper donated by
United RV in Albuquerque one of the crew was Gary a combat veteran who
had recently gotten out of the Army. He had done 2 tours over seas
and had later been assigned to guard nuclear weapons. I felt as I
owed him an apology for being a noncombat veteran. He said, you don’t
have to, what your doing is important. Before I left he said there is
something I want to give you, he went into his office and brought me
out his cover.
January 13, Thursday; Today I had more people stop me then I have
ever had in a day and we are on an interstate highway in the most
rural area we have ever been. Only 2 weren’t Indians, but they did a
first for me, they made a tractor trailer take a u turn.
What amazes me is that the Indians have been robbed, killed and
discriminate against, but yet they fight with us shoulder to shoulder.
The elders have a strength I have seen in mountains. One warrior I
met didn’t go to his cleansing ceremony when he returned from war but,
did the path of the white man, drugs and alcohol. It took him many
years to make it home.
The other day a college professor and her daughter stopped me on
their way to Flagstaff. After they found out what we were doing by
going on her phone the mother told me her daughter was so excited when
they got out of the car and she asked why, she said, because I want to
see someone who cares. The daughter was 10.
January 14, Friday; Today around Big Sky two young men stopped me to
sign the petition, one of them had a brother who had been in and was
unable to speak to him about his experiences. They asked me why it
seems more people are committing suicide now then 30 years ago. I
said I don’t have the statistics, but I do know there is more being
said about it now which makes it seem like there is more. Also the
speculation about the wars we are in now may have an effect as well on
those who were in it. How good do you think a soldier can feel if he
is told he was fighting for oil instead of freedom?
January 15, Saturday; When I got to exit 81 on I 40 after two ladies
stopped to give me lunch and a sheriff signed the petition a state
trooper stopped. It wasn’t the usually stop as he did a uturn on a
one way highway and almost hit a tractor trailer to pull up in front
of me spraying cinders all over. He got out like he was going to draw
his weapon and yelled for me to get off the interstate. I said check
out our website, he said I don’t have to as he pointed off the
interstate and didn’t go till I was up the off ramp.
An Indian stopped that had seen me then went home to get some
food for me then came and signed the petition. Also met Phil a Vet
that took care of us for the night and said we restored his faith in
January 16, Sunday; Phil and I talked about the Indians and he said
they were poor, I said there are 2 types of poor, one is stuff and the
other is spiritual. I would rather be poor in stuff then spiritual.
On my walk I came up to a run down house with no trespassing
signs, 2 dogs barking, a lock on the gate with a woman in the yard.
She said come on over theirs an opening in the fence, I don’t get many
visitors. She told me how she is running for president, I thought you
would have to be crazy to have a job where the special interest groups
that get you elected tell you what to do, if you don’t they have you
shot and you are a scapegoat for the public and media. Then after
talking to her awhile I realized she could handle the job, she was
crazy, but then again who am I to say as I walk barefoot across the
country and doubt my own sanity?
January 17, Monday; I walked through Thoreau past the Continental
Divide and on my way an Indian Marine stop and said at first he
thought I was working for Burger King until he read the sign. He
thanked me and asked where I come from, I told him NY, but I’ve been
on the reservation so long I don’t like white men either. He laughed
and said, so you think Custer had it coming to him. I said, I my book
he did. We hugged and he drove off after giving me his USMC tie clip.
As he rode away I realised on this trip as I have gone through
area’s with different beliefs, such as the Irish with the English up
at the Boston Tea Party, Ground Zero, the Civil War Trail, the Trail
of Tears I get to understand their side and how they feel. From where
I stand it doesn’t seem like any war ever really ended and no one
really ever won.
January 18, Tuesday; On my way to Gallop a few natives stopped and
one, a veteran sent his daughter to sign and bring me some water.
Phil also visited me and adjusted my back on the side of the road,
talk about curb service. He did that because he believes in what we
are doing. It is amazing to me what a belief does. It changes the
world faster then most things I have seen because people start from
the place of being which doing comes from.
January 19, Wednesday; As I strolled through Gallop a young man and
woman stopped me to ask what I was doing. The man fought back tears
as he told me his father was diagnosed 100% disabled with PTSD, and
questioningly said, but he’s OK as I saw years of abuse etched on his
He also welcomed me home, when he did that he welcomed all
soldiers home, unfortunately they don’t hear it and have to get it
second hand from me or others. It is to bad because it doesn’t have
the same impact kind of like being at a live concert verse’s hearing
A Mayortorial candidate walked with me for 2 hours. He is 22
years old, Navajo, gay and well informed. There have been 5 people
killed this year alone by the trains, most of them Veterans, teenagers
have been committing suicide and most of them have done so because of
having a parent overseas in the war while they live with extended
families. He gave me hope in that a young person wants to make a
difference and is open about who he is. At that age being civic
minded wasn’t on my radar neither was being open about anything.
January 20, Thursday; I walked in the desert from NM into Arizona and
on the way I met a couple of Native Veterans from my era that signed.
A little later a camper pulled over and the driver said my brother is
a vet and he was to talk to you, he is on the other side. I go to the
passenger side and her brother is drinking and asks if I need help. I
said just to sign the petition. He tells me he did 2 tours and how
when he got his cherry busted (got shot at) he went crazy.
When he got home they put him on medication after diagnosing him
with PTSD. He said, it isn’t working so I drink to keep a buzz on.
I said it will never go away, but if you don’t face it, it will get
worse. He said he can’t talk to his mom, wife or children. I said
drinking won’t help, but if you help others coming back it will help
heal you. He said 2 of his buddies committed suicide, one shot
himself the other jumped off a cliff and he has thought about it.
When we parted I could see something different was on his mind
that he hadn’t thought of before.
January 21, Friday; My first full day in Arizona on route 40 and a
car pulls over in front of me and a man gets out to find out what I am
doing. After I tell him he shares that his son went overseas with
Airborne. Then he starts to cry saying he wasn’t there for his son as
he grew up because of drugs and alcohol. Now he is over seas and he
can’t be there for him. So he has done the next best thing he
can and drop to his knees and prays to God. It is something he had
never done till now, I don’t care who you are when you get in over
your head you reach out and hope someone is there to grab your hand
January 22, Saturday; At the end of the day we stopped at an old rte
66 dinner in a town that is drying up to meet a young couple. He has
a hammer hanging over his head; he knows when he is going to die. He
said at first it was hard, now I live everyday. Before if there was
nothing in it for me I was on the couch, now I like to help people.
How many people go on like they will never die so they actually
never live, thinking they have time to do it later?
January 23, Sunday; At the end of my walk just before Valeria came to
pick me up at mile marker 316 a State Trooper pulled over and told me
it was against the law to walk this road, but if I got a bike it would
be OK. When I told him what we were doing and how far we had come, he
said, you keep walking. We talked till Valeria arrived and I found
out that almost all the men in his family had been in the military and
he was glad we were doing something. Before we parted he choked up
and said his uncle had committed suicide after he got back from the
war. I said, it’s OK the pain never goes away. He blessed us on our
journey as he turned to leave.
January 24, Monday; Today no one stopped me as I walked in the
Petrified Forest. I found a Blackberry, unable to reach the owner I
took it with me hoping we would find someway to find them, it would
have been easy to leave it there. It seems we treat people the same
if we aren’t immediately successful with them we discard them. The
homeless and angry veterans are our discarded cell phones, we leave
them by the side of the road till they get run over and we don’t have
to deal with them.
January 25, Tuesday; This morning before my feet hit the pavement I
talked to Congressman Roe’s aid who said, within 2 weeks we will let
you know when you are to speak before the committee for Veteran
Affairs. A great way to start my walk of site seeing and no company.
January 26, Wednesday; Left Holbrook and before I made it to Joseph
City 2 men from the road crew who saw me yesterday stopped to give me
water and a sandwich. While signing the petition one told me he was
in the Army Special Forces.
Past Joseph City a man and woman older then me stopped, if you
can believe that. They had seen me over 200 miles back and were glad
they got a chance to stop and talk. They said, we were just talking
about this, something should be done.
It seems a lot of people feel this way, but don’t know what they
can do. How far wrong can you go if you do anything instead of
January 27, Thursday; When I walked into Windslow AZ a car had pulled
over and a woman got out. She said, I had seen you at the Veterans
Integration Center over 200 miles back, how are you doing; I want to
speak National for PTSD. I suffered from PTSD for 20 years after
getting out of the army, what should I do. I said well if you want to
speak National you should start a support group in your area and
speaking locally. If you wrote a book about your experience it would
let people know your story. I don’t have a book making it difficult
for people who have never met me to know what to expect.
The key is to do something, a thought and a talk are a start till
you take the next step that people can see.
January 28, Friday; Just left the corner in Winslow Arizona and met
one of the State Troopers, a big boy about 6’4″ who smiling asked,
didn’t I see you in Albuquerque over a week ago. I said, yeah. He
said, I’m a Marine, been to Iraq, raising his finger making the
italics sign saying I was wounded, but not shot. I went to some
counseling. My father was a Marine in Viet Nam 1965 and got shot
through the hand Christmas Eve. He thanked me for what I was doing
and told me I might see his Sargent, another Marine.
He seemed well adjusted and as happy as one could be, my wish is
that all soldiers coming home could have someone who had gone through
the grinder like his father to come out the other side a better man to
be there for his son. Not a statistic that gets press, but the
unmentioned statistic, a soldier coming home being a good citizen and
having a loving family.
Three native women stopped me to give me a cup of hot soup and
sign the petition after going miles out of there way. If we all went
out of the way just a little it would make a bigger difference then
you might think.
January 29, Saturday; I walked past 2 Guns Rd on rt 40 and a car
pulled off the side of the road a ways up and before I got to them
they were gone. When I got to the place they had stopped there was 2
bottles of water and 2 packs of crackers. It reminded me of the
Appalachian Trail, when you would find food or what you need on the
trail; it was called trail magic and the people that left it where
called trail Angels. The first time I meet a trail Angel it blew me
away because they got nothing that I could see out of it. He said,
hikers are my hero’s, I chocked on the food I was gobbling and said,
no you are mine. In another life time that was an alien thought to
me, doing something with no return.
I was startled by a young man running up behind me, when I turned
around I saw his car which I hadn’t heard. He said I want to thank
you and walk with you for awhile. While we walked he told me that he
had been balled up on the floor for a week and his wife came to him
and said, get up we’re going for a ride. She wouldn’t tell me where
we were going. After we were in the car driving she said, there is a
guy I want you to meet who is walking and he is somewhere between
Flagstaff and NM on I 40 and we’re going to find him. I said, we’ll
never find him, then we passed you and you waved to us.
You see I was in Afghanistan and had my faith ripped out of me
when we were hit by a roadside bomb and I watch our Lt. burn to death
as he screamed for someone to kill him. You know it was funny because
he was always talking about God and I wondered how God could let this
happen? I said, at the end of the day he gets us all, it is our
choice what we do while we are here. He was quite and said, I don’t
feel normal being state side, I don’t belong here anymore, in country
it’s normal to be edgy and explosive. I wanted to go back, but I
couldn’t do that to my wife, I met her over there.
January 30, Sunday; I walked into Flagstaff and met one of the local
state troopers following up on calls of me going to commit suicide,
she was very kind and let me continue.
On my walk I saw so many destroyed auto parts that I could have
made a vehicle from them. Back home if they had a number of
fatalities in a certain area they did something to correct it. It
should parallel what is happening to our soldiers, but it doesn’t seem
their are enough fatalities yet to correct the problem. Either that
or our what we are doing isn’t working.
January 31, Monday; Last night we shared a meal with new friends I
had met through a hiker I had known on the Appalachian Trail. A
different breed of people that seem a little more grateful and a
little more aware of nature, our impact and make some effort as a
group to do something positive.
Today I didn’t walk so we could see the Grand Canyon, the worst
case of erosion I have ever seen. A place where I don’t have to look
up to get a feeling of how small I can be physically, one of life’s
February 1, Tuesday; This morning it was cold and windy (below zero
but warmed up to around freezing and about a 10 mph wind), no one
stopped me and I don’t blame them for not wanting to roll down their
window. When Valeria finally got me I was perfectly chilled where
just getting out of the wind feels warm.
When we got back to Dirty’s house he said he had a friend coming
over that wanted to see us. A little while later we heard a knock at
the door and a young man was standing outside with a big smile and I
said, hello. He said, Tyvek don’t you remember me, it’s Easy? I was
surprised that I didn’t recognize him, but I had never seen him smile
before. We had met on the Appalachian trail 3 years ago when he had
just gotten out of he Marines after 5 tours of duty. He looked great
and happy which was nice to see. He said he had been on the trail
because his wife told him to go and not come back till he got his head
together, how ever long and whatever it took because this wasn’t the
man she married.
February 2, Wednesday; Valeria convinced me I shouldn’t walk today,
it was about 17 degrees the highest and windy making seem colder. So
we made phone calls to enroll more people to show up for our talk
tomorrow at NAU.
February 3, Thursday; We spoke at the University of Arizona which
went well and was well attended. It was set up for us by Rebecca who
we had met on I40 several days ago. She is a Veteran who met her
husband overseas in the Army. They are lucky to have one another for
support because they understand each other.
The Veteran group there works to support and help other vets make
the transition to school life. We were told that of the civilians who
go to school around a third graduate, of the Veterans only 3%
graduate. I think other then the transition one of the big factors
would be that a lot of them already have a spouse and children they
have to support which would make it extremely difficult. I am not
certain about this, just a thought.
February 4, Friday; Walked out of Flagstaff and was stopped by a
young man and woman, they signed. She said, I never take off this
bracelet, I said, thanks for doing more then wearing a bracelet.
February 5, Saturday; Just outside of William a police officer
stopped me to talk to me as he had check out the website. He said my
son is over there now with the Marines thank you for what you are
doing. Just as I got into Williams a woman with the American Legions
Woman’s Auxiliary stopped and brought me to the post to get
signatures. There they feed my wife and I and the woman who picked us
up put us up for the night. Her husband who is 100% disabled with
PTSD recently went to prison for 3 years dropping his disability to
10% so they will be losing their home while he is in because of an
incident caused by PTSD.
February 6, Sunday; As I walked into Ash Fork I was stopped by 4
different Police to see how I was doing, one had stopped me yesterday
and was just checking to see how I was doing and wish me a good day.
I have blue Guardian Angels. A man pulled over to thank us for what
we are doing he was a Marine in the VN area, he is now a minister and
said, I have a Marine, boots on the ground over there now, my son.
After I finished walking my wife and I stopped by the American
Legion, they were friendly and they all signed the petition as they
watched the supper bowl.
February 7, Monday; I am west of Ash Fork and have been asked by the
Sheriff to take rt 66 till I get out of his county, a 60 mile stretch
and just as I made it to the ext ramp a state trooper checked me out,
signed and said, I have no problem with you walking I 40, but I didn’t
just in case the sheriff came back.
Going from I 40 to 66 was like having someone shut off the water,
but two woman stopped and signed the petition. I walked on reading
Burma Shave signs.
February 8, Tuesday; Before I went for a walk I meet a man in the
bathroom of the KOA in Seligman AZ. He is here on vacation from
Germany, he works with a Teen Challenge and says that suicide is a big
problem. When we talked we discovered we had similar history and I
said, guess we were the seeds that grew on the rocks and still bore
Still on 66 which was quite except for one man who stopped to
offer a ride then signed
February 9, Wednesday; The past Commander for the American Legion in
Slegman told me 3 Vets died after the Zoning Board prohibited the use
of campers and trailers as homes, they are looking into it. A water
tank driven by a Marine stopped and gave me water, but wouldn’t sign,
he earned the right.
Another man who stopped told me his father had been in the Marines
and wouldn’t let him enlist telling him, I fought so you and your son
wouldn’t have to.
February 10, Thursday; One couple stopped only for directions. They
couldn’t sign as they rushed to see the Grand Canyon Caverns which I
am sure wouldn’t be the same unless they got there right away.
February 11, Friday; A member of the State Militia stopped, he said,
we are the organization people laugh at, there are 200,000 of us in
AZ, we replaced the nation Guard here when they were deployed. We
sent 3,000 men to the boarders and they gave us one 45 for each squad
to protect ourselves, thank God we brought our own.
2 native women stopped to thank us and a Marine at the gas
station in Thorton offered to let us stay the night. We visited with
Fran who has 6 children, 3 she has adopted here from natives that have
abandoned them for drugs and alcohol. Wonder if that is another form
of that acceptable collateral damage we hear about?
February 12, Saturday; Into Huchberry I had a strange experience as I
walked into the wind I had 2 tumbleweeds come up to me, veer away then
stay with me for a few steps as if they had a mind of their own.
Out of Huckberry I meet the Commandant of the Marine Veterans of
Kingman. He invited us to drop by. Also a bicyclist passed me twice
and later I got an email from him after he checked out our website.
He sent me contact info for local papers.
February 13, Sunday; After I finished walking for the day we stopped
by a VFW post in Golden and got signatures then stopped at the
American Legion. Going in I asked for the commander to make sure it’s
OK, the patron at the bar said he wasn’t in, but just go around and
get signatures. As I was getting signatures one of the woman was
saying she didn’t think it was good to make it mandatory, she starts
yelling at me then tells the bartender I couldn’t do it. The
bartender asked if I was a member of their post, I said no. She said
you have to leave. I stopped for a moment at the door to talk to one
of the woman who had signed when the bartender and patron who was
yelling start screaming for me to keep going. Getting outside they
had the biggest guy in the building make sure we left as he had his
phone up to call the police, he avoided eye contact as we waved
February 14, Monday; Got work done on the camper at Russell’s RV and
they gouged us big time, guess because I was from out of town and a
New Yorker to boot. I was shocked and then realized I had expected
them to be sympathetic to our cause. At least they gave us 2 little
Valentine box’s to make the screwing easier.
February 15, Tuesday; As I walked in the Mohave Desert by the airport
I was interviewed by the Standard. The reporter was around my age and
said, my dad was in WWII and it didn’t affect him, he wouldn’t use a
weapon or hunt. I said how do you know it had no effect on him, you
didn’t know him before he went over?
February 16, Wednesday; As I walked through Kingman I stopped to talk
to a car salesman who said he doesn’t sign anything without really
looking at it. As he said that a truck pulled up and the family
inside all signed and gave me money. I left my card with the salesman
to check us out.
A little ways up the road a bartender ran out of her bar and
wanted to know what I was doing, after telling her she had me come in
and had everyone sign. There was a combat Marine from the Viet Nam
era and he was glad somebody was doing something.
February 17, Thursday; After I got done walking I check my emails and
got an apology from the car salesman. He said he was in as well as
his brother and father and was sorry he didn’t sign when I was there,
he signed on the Internet and offered to help us out. It gives me
hope when someone checks us out then follows through.
February 18, Friday; This morning as I walked into Oatman I heard a
burrow in the mountains and hoped I would see one. When I got into
the town of Oatman I saw them all, the tourist feed them. When the
gold petered out they let the burrow go so they would roam around till
they became a tourist attraction. In town one of the gun slingers
asked how we funded our trip, I said we did most of it and people
along the way help out so they all chipped in and gave us 100 bucks,
some of them are vets and others have friends that have committed
February 19, Saturday; Out of Oatman headed into Golden AZ a car load
of girls stopped. They were Jehovah Witnesses who wouldn’t sign the
petition saying it was political, I said, you have already judged it
without reading it, it isn’t political. How much more political can
you be then trying to convert someone to not be political. The more
one denies something the more power it has.
Stopped at a VFW in Golden AZ and a Korean Vet told me how one of
the young men he was with flipped out shot a guard and killed a family
of 6 near the base. When the MP’s came for him he came at them with a
spent weapon and was shot beyond recognition.
February 20, Sunday; My first day in CA walking on I 40 a State
Trooper comes up behind me acting aggressively asks what are you
doing. Before I tell him he asks to see my hands then tells me to
take my sign off. He says do you have anything I should know about, I
say a pocket knife and he tells me to put it with my sign then asks if
there is anything else he should know and smiling I tell him I am a
lethal weapon so he steps back. The whole time he has one hand behind
him on his weapon, saying it is against the law, but I am not going to
fine or arrest you, do you have someone that can come and get you. I
say my wife and she is at the camp in Needles. He said I could bring
you there, but I have to cuff you, I say that is OK, you want me to
put my sign in he says no I’ll do it. He has me spread eagle, felt
like I was doing a split then he had me put my hands on my head while
he cuffed me from behind.
It is the first time I ever remember getting cuffed by a cop and
it wasn’t to a bed. There is a first for everything.
When he escorted me back I asked to use this as a photo op to
send to my boys. He said, OK, are you sure your wife wont freak out
on me, I said, she shouldn’t, but if she does you can cuff her too.
He thanked me for understanding his position which I did, he was doing
his job and doesn’t know me. I said, I am not going to waste energy
fighting, besides you would get hurt and I would go to jail. After
the photo op he took back his cuffs, which he wouldn’t let me borrow,
wished us luck and was on his way.
February 21, Monday; Yesterday when the state police officer said I
had to go on another route because it was dangerous for me I said the
smaller roads are more dangerous because of curves, smaller shoulders
and passing traffic, he agreed and said it was more dangerous for me,
but he didn’t want anyone on the interstate to hit me and have to live
with killing me. So today I almost got nailed, but thank God it
wasn’t on I 40.
After he escorted me home I called to see if I could get
permission to walk 40. They told me CA would be glad to take all my
money. That annoyed me that what I was doing was illegal unless I
paid, then all of a sudden it wasn’t if I gave them money. I guess I
still want to believe in fairy tales.
A film producer stopped and took my picture, I said you could
make a movie of this. Told Valeria that I wanted Bruce Willis to play
me and Merlystrep to play her. She said she wanted to play herself, I
thought a moment and said, I don’t think they have anybody that could
cry as much as we do.
February 22, Tuesday; Walked through a town called Goffs that had a
population of 23, nice sand to stroll through as a reporter stopped to
take a picture for her paper. We talked about relationships, how we
could get along fine with people just as long as we could get away
from them. I noticed constant contact gives my ego time to surface
and judgement to set in, it seems I am perfect when I get my way or am
Made it to the Oasis, the only gas station in a 30 mile radius
were the owner was selling her gas for 4.59 a gallon when the going
price is 4.09 here in CA at the moment. I was watching the News about
the Middle East, when the owner commented about greed causing it all.
I found that ironic as her hummer was parked outside and she was
gouging everyone 50 cents extra a gallon. I guess when she does it
she is entitled anyone else doing it to her is greedy.
February 23, Wednesday; Walked into Essex and got more then half the
people to sign the petition, there is only 6 people living here. One
had been drafted in 66 and was one of 10,000 with an IQ over 110 that
were used in an experiment where they were given war games to play.
The results from these was used for strategies over seas.
February 24, Thursday; This morning I met a man who had enlisted into
the Air Force after VN was over and hadn’t seen any action, but was
affected by all the footage of VN he had seen on TV as a child. He
said, my son always wanted to be a fireman and save people so he went
into the National Guard, trained to be a fire fighter and EMT, he even
bought his own uniform. He called me up so excited that he went on
his first call, describing how he went to the site where a man had
PTSD and shot himself and they couldn’t save him. My son was talking
about the call, all I was hearing was how this would haunt him for the
rest of his life. He quietly said, that’s my little boy as he stared
at the ground.
I remember Red Fox saying; you only get 2 things in life; your
first and your last, everything in between was gravy because your
first might be your last.
A railway man stopped me and let me know he was willing to help
if I needed anything. He was an Army Ranger and had been watching me
for days as I walked his route.
February 25, Friday; A man stopped to take a picture and said, I
didn’t get drafted back in the Viet Nam area because I had gotten
married and had a child, I always thought I should have gone, you know
somethings always haunt you. I said, somethings haunt us all.
A state police officer stopped and called out my name, I was
taken back and said, who are you. He told me he had talked to my wife
and wanted to meet me. He and his friend had discussed how they
wanted to collect money to give to people in need and we talked about
how they might do that.
He asked if there was anything he could do and I said yes so he
signed the petition, gave me his water and what cash he had on him
except for enough money to buy another water. I said you don’t have
to give me your only bottle of water. He said, don’t worry I’m
driving and thank you.
February 26, Saturday; No one stopped except the people that where on
a GPS treasure hunt and to them I was invisible. It seems ironic, I
read the Chinese want us to back up the money they have lent us with
property, which I don’t blame them, what could they get with our money
if our economy goes south?. While this is going Americans are racing
around the country playing games as the dirt is being sold out from
under us. Our children are paying a high price for a war for who?
February 27, Sunday; As I walked into Ludlow I saw that a car had
stopped at our camper so I called Valeria to find out who it was. She
said, there is someone here looking for you I will send him out. Out
came a man looking a bit like a Leprechaun only taller and he wasn’t
wearing green. When he got to me he said, I heard about you from my
friend Dave that just met you and I looked up your website. I didn’t
go to church and drove from Apple Valley to find you to shake your
hand. You see I have been out of circulation and once thought about
doing what you are, but cancer has taken away a lot of my life. I
haven’t done anything to help. I said, I thought I would be getting
signatures would be the most important thing I do. I realized it is
about meeting people one on one, giving hope to those who have lost it
and share others burdens. You have no idea how much a smile and
listening mean to people. I used to be so arrogant that I thought
what I did doesn’t matter; everything I do matters. I care about you,
you matter to me. We cried and he said, I have something I want to
give you, it is said that people have millions in change they just put
in bottles, well I have some change for you, it took the 3 of us to
carry it to the camper.
February 28, Monday;I walked out of Lodlow and one of the railroad
crew stopped and said, I have been watching you since Arizona, you
need anything. I said, I could always use some water and a signature.
He signed after giving me a water and said, I was in the Navy and my
15 year old son wants to be a sniper. I don’t want him to, but I
don’t try to talk him out of it, that would be like giving him the
keys to go down and sign up. He has a lot of time to change his mind.
Just before I finished for the day I saw a man doing that gps
treasure hunt, you can tell because they pull over numerous times and
run out of the car each time. He stopped by me and I asked what was
the deal with this game. He said, we look for a little can to sign
off on the paper inside to verify we were here, it’s free, I am
retired, it is a good hobby for me so I don’t think about things like
this (as he pointed to my sign) and drove off laughing. I thought,
great we should all get hobbies so we can bury our heads deeper in the
sand and those of us who don’t have sand can burry it further up our
March 1, Tuesday; As I walked through New Berry Springs I saw two
people at “The Barn”, a bar and went over and asked them to sign the
petition. I had stated that we want mandatory counseling for all
Military Personnel so that no one slips through the cracks, especially
those already in trouble who may not get an honorable discharge. The
man said, I was in the Army for 28 years and don’t agree with that,
there is a reason they got a dishonorable discharge and they don’t
deserve any help. I only get 10% disability and have done 2 tours in
combat while the guy down the road draws down more then me, never been
in combat saying he has a mental problem and had only done a two
years. The woman with him says, I’ll sign that petition and as we
kept talking the man said, my son has seen combat 10 times in his 20
years, it has changed him, he gets angry. I will sign your petition
even though I don’t agree 100%.
March 2, Wednesday; Today I passed through Dagot and stopped at the
Post Office to get a signature from a local getting mail. While I was
standing there another man came out with 2 children wanting to sign,
his father was a Marine in Korea who he remember waking them up,
screaming in his sleep. He drank which did nothing to stop his
Before I left two young men in uniform came up to me and said,
Ron. I said, yes. They came over and shook my hand saying we want to
thank you, we saw you walking, looked up your website and we have been
calling you barefoot Ron ever since.
I told them our plan saying, we need tools to make it home
because 70 to 80% of the suicides are because of a failed
relationship. When we get out everyone around us knows we are
different but us. He smiled and said, I got divorced after my first
deployment. I never thought about what you proposed, but it makes a
lot of sense, one of my friends committed suicide after his first
deployment. We took a collection in the office for you, it is good
that someone is doing something about this.
We see that most of the suicides are from guys after their first
trip over. After your second or third you get used to the boredom,
the crazy stuff, the chicken shit and the nightmares start to go away.
March 3, Thursday; When I walked through Barstow a woman stopped me
and said, why do they need counseling, don’t they get a good pension?
I looked her in the eye and said imagine you are in a car accident
with your family and everyone is killed, but you. Do you think it
would bother you? She grabbed the petition from me to sign it with a
look that said, how stupid of me.
March 4, Friday; When I walked to Hodge several people on the road
signed and told me of friends that are in and not the same. Got calls
from people who had read about us in the local paper, sharing their
stories of lost loved ones.
After I stopped we went into a shop and after telling the woman
behind the counter what we are doing she told us her son was in now.
Before we left she was crying because her cousin had committed suicide
when he was in. What is sad is that for her to cry is acceptable, but
if a soldier comes back and cries he has PTSD and lose that job. They
aren’t treated like humans that have feels, they are treated like
humans with a stigma.
March 5, Saturday; Today I didn’t walk because we drove back to
Bullhead AZ to speak at a Veterans Expo were tables for each Veteran
orientated Organization were set up. They started growing this
coalition 4 years ago and I was impressed how well they worked
Many politicians had been invited to speak, one of which was
John McCain, they all sent a letter of well wishes except for the
Mayor of Bullhead who came in person. I was disappointed as I was
told they all said they would be there, I felt it was disrespectful.
As I thought about it, knowing that there are 20.4 million Vets
in America and if you add the active you still don’t have even 10% of
the population. I guess it is political safe to discard them if they
aren’t united, but after seeing how effective this coalition hopefully
that will change.
March 6, Sunday; We spent the day on the road coming from Bullhead
where we spoke at a Vet. Coalition to go to a speaking engagement in
Topanga. It was a group that formed a community they call Dara
started in African. They meet once a month to share, discuss topics
and support one another in causes. I am humbled whenever I speak to
people that have been working to affect change for years and continue
to do so even if it appears their efforts are in vain and they told
use we inspire them.
One woman there told of her son who resently joined the Marines
and told her he wanted out. She told him she would do whatever it
took, a week later he decided to stay in. She cried as she told how
she would honor his decision no matter what she felt.
March 7, Monday2011; Today’s walk was reminiscent of Oklahoma as I was
buffeted around. On the side of the road 3 men wrestled in the wind
to strap a rug to a trailer. I asked if they would be interested in
signing a petition. They asked what it was about, the boss is a first
Sgt. who said he wouldn’t sign, I don’t want my men to go for help it
looks bad on my record, we constantly monitor them and give
assessments. I explained how our plan would eliminate it looking bad
on their record by being mandatory. He thought for a moment and asked
if I could speak at on of his classes. Of course I said, Yes!
A young man stopped to tell me, you don’t have to be in the
military to get PTSD, I found my friend murdered in the desert.
March 8, Tuesday; Before I started to walk I went into the Iron Hog
to see if they had coffee for Valeria (have to keep the troops happy),
they had let us camp in their parking lot. When I opened the door the
first words out of the barmaids mouth where, you need shoes to come in
here. I paused a moment to compose myself, then said with an
attitude, do you have coffee, she said, yes, I replied, I’ll be back
with something on my feet. We returned and told her what we were
doing as we waited for coffee. She started to cry and said, my father
was in Korea and before he committed suicide he tried to become a
mercenary, but they wouldn’t take him, they said he was crazy. I am
sorry I didn’t know who you were you can lose the flip flops.
Just before I finished for the day in Victorville, where I
thought I had taken a wrong turn a large young man waiting at a bus
stop across the street from me cups his hands to his mouth and yells
out, Bullshit. Now he had made 3 mistakes, the first was to yell
bullshit, the second to think because he was 6′ 5″ and weighing 260
people would be intimidated by him and his final mistake which was
almost fatal was that he didn’t do it from a car. Instantaneously my
temper flared up, he represented all the people who cursed me from
their car or who tried to scare me by hitting my sign with their car
when they drove by. I walked across 4 lanes of moving traffic, at
that moment they didn’t exist . By the time I got to him I was calm
and looked up into his eyes and said, excuse me I didn’t hear what you
said. He stood there and stammered, he didn’t know weather to pee or
go blind and finally said, I have some questions. I said, what. He
said, well I read that the more times you are deployed the less
problem you have with PTSD. I said, really, what branch are you in,
he rolled his eyes and didn’t answer. I asked again, he said, I’m not
in. I said, go ask a Vet then tell me. He said, I like to read both
side, I said, then do so before you make a judgement.
When I walked away I cried because I had been so angry I wanted to
hurt him, it wouldn’t have needed much of an excuse.
March 9, Wednesday; This morning, The Servants, a 3 patch Christian
Motorcycle gang was here to see me off after visiting last night to
hear our story. Most of them are Combat Vets who put us up at the
Shady Oasis, feed us and worked on our camper. When they back you up,
they back you up. I received a lesson in Humility, especially from
Wizard who had did most of the work on the camper. Whenever I thanked
him over the coarse of 2 days he would say, it is the Lord who gets
the credit. Most of the my life I thought I was doing something
instead of God working through me. Their pastor, Don Standing Bear
took me under his wing giving my mother competition. The San Beradino
paper took pictures of us with the gang before I went for my jaunt.
As I walked out of Victorville I came upon 3 homeless people, one
was a Vet who has lived for years in the desert while the other man
said he had been in and out of prison for stupid stuff, his toothless
girl friend sat at his side. They were drinking beer in the shade of
a new building after signing the petition.
March 10, Thursday; I walked on 66 after I was asked to leave the
inter state, a treacherous stretch because of the speed limit, hill
and people coming back from Vegas. On one of those rural stretches I
was passed by a car where a man yelled out his window, get rid of the
trash,Asshole. I waved for him to come back, but you know how
engaging motorist are. To my surprise he had parked off the road
about a half mile past me. I thought, not only is he rude, he’s
stupid too as the thought of a busted windshield crossed my mind. Of
coarse I didn’t act upon it, but for a moment it was a pleasant
Tom who we had meet coming through the desert of CA told his wife
about us and she came today to walk and talk with me. She has written
over 6,500 letters and worked for years on a project to help the
environment. Another one of those unsung hero’s that has no PR.
March 11, Friday; A policeman stopped me because he heard someone was
chasing me with a brick. Got mustard seeds from a street preacher who
told me to keep the faith, I said, no I will spread it.
Met Jim Wrights son, a Marine who is now a police officer in
Cuchamonga. He was a happy camper and loved his job being undercover
and not working a beat. He signed the front of the camper and thanked
us, when we parted I told him to say hello to his dad for us.
As the sun was setting I spoke at a park were only a handful
showed, I felt like I was preaching to the choir.
March 12, Saturday; We were comped the night at The Holiday Express
in Victorville to be at their flag raising ceremony. Because of the
poor turn out last night and this morning I realized the people that
show up do it because they care, it means something to them. Even if
no one else showed up they would be there,they don’t have to get
anything visible out of it. Those old men with a poppie on their
lapel, the young women with brothers in, the mothers, the children who
all look up at the flag with a vision of freedom, God bless our loved
ones is on their lips.
March 13, Sunday; I called a High School buddy who had moved out here
and I hadn’t seen I went into the Marines. When I called he said, I
haven’t seen you in 30 years, I said, and we didn’t even hate one
another. When I arrived I wouldn’t have recognized him except for his
face, after the initial shock we got to catch up on things. He told
me his body is from riding PT boats in Viet Nam; a gift from Agent
Orange, diabetes, quadruple by pass, etc. He came home to being spit
on, called baby killer and sitting on a bar stool for a solid year.
That ended when his brother walked in one day and said, do you think
you had enough to drink, he paused and said, yeah, his brother said,
good, we have work to do.
Thirty years melted away by bonds that defy logic and we were
brothers that just saw one another the other day. We discovered that
we could have been raised by the same father, a young man out of WWII
with no tools. The only difference was his father had committed
suicide so he got fewer beatings, but he had the tools to continue on
March 14 Monday; As I walked through Upland, Claremont, San Dimas
and Glendora into Azusa I meet a Marine who served Beruit; another
sterling moment in American History where Politicians blatantly ran a
war. I had daughters of vets sign and a father with his son sign as
he explained to his 6 year old what I was doing. A homeless vet
wouldn’t sign, he said, my signature doesn’t mean anything. A non vet
took what seemed a lifetime to read the petition then asked if I read
it. I said, I wrote it. He looked at me then refused to sign with no
Does a 3 piece suit change the truth?
March 15 Tuesday; I had a man and his friends do a U turn to sign
the petition and wish us luck early in the day. An just after I felt
I had mastered being invisible in an neighborhood of deaf people.
At the end of the day we were invited to speak for Crusade TV
which is a Baptist program near Anaheim run by Reverend Wilee. He
said, I like to check in on what God is doing and join him. He has a
shelter for 60 homeless at this time, it used to be 250. Didn’t that
get the town excited! They told him to kick them out, he refused. I
like this guy, he turned no one away no matter what they believe or
what pressure the town put on him; he preaches with his actions not
his mouth, well he does both, but his actions speak louder.
March 16 Wednesday; Today I had more rejection then I have had
anywhere else so far, you’ve got to love Southern CA. One man saw me
coming, pulled out his Veteran ID card and said, no where not (in
reply to my sign which reads 18 vets a day commit suicide) as he
walked into the liquor store at noon. I guess there are many ways to
March 17 Thursday;On a busy street in Hollywood, Los Feliz Blvd a
young Viet Nam man pulled over in traffic, got out and said, I saw you
on the news and wanted to sign your petition, my Grandfather was in
the war, he fought on the other side. I was blown away how happy he
was to sign it to help men who had killed his people.
March 18 Friday;Today we are staying with Joe who lost a son to the
war,he told me how he met with soldiers from wounded warriors who knew
about his son and one asked him, how did you feel losing your son.
Joe was shocked and couldn’t answer, he thought about it for weeks and
hopes to see him tomorrow because now he has an answer for him.
On the walk I was invisible and stopped into a church after
talking to Vale who said, don’t approach anyone today and see what
happens. It was odd for there was a mass at noon on a week day, the
sermon was about forgiving and if you can’t forgive, pray that you
can. I thought about the man who I don’t think was a citizen not
wanting to sign the petition because he couldn’t get a job. If he
can’t he doesn’t want anyone to get what he thinks he is etitled to
and there won’t be enough for him and his family.
March 19, Saturday 2011 When I walked today I had bikers, veterans, peace
activist, ministers, cameramen and family members who had a suicide in
their family walk with me. Joe Anzack’s sister Dawn set it up and had
First Sargent Jessie Acosta walk with us, a great advocate for
Veterans who was discharged after being blinded on his last tour of
duty due to shrapnel from a mortar. He walked with his friend Rusty
one of the greatest snipers in the USMC and his seeing eye dog. As we
walked I talked to Jessie and he told me of the discrimination against
the blind. When I asked about his family, he said, you don’t see any
of them with me’ it was his greatest cost of defending his country,
his family. What greater cost then that is there.
I walked to the end of the Santa Monica Pier, took of my sign,
knelt down with Don Standing Bear, thanking God for keeping us safe
and being with us on this journey. Then I stripped down to my Batman
underwear and plunged into the ocean; I love this country.
March 20 Sunday 2011;Today I spent the day with my adopted son who is in
the Coast Guard and his girlfriend who is a Counselor for Vets. Her
boss tells the men, it will be hard work and you may use drugs to get
through it, but we won’t use it as a cure. You have lived through the
worst, don’t avoid it now. One of the soldiers told her, do you know
what PTSD stands for, she said, I know what I think it is what do you
say it is? It stands for People That Should be Dead.
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