When I walked the last two miles of my 3,300 mile journey across this country for veterans in San Diego on September 1st, it was a very emotional day. At 7:00, I was greeted with motor cyclists from the Combat Veterans, about 20 men and women who traveled considerable distance to escort me into town. I started out as the lone walker and it soon grew into a parade of people, some who came as far as Kansas, Colorado and Illinois. My two step sons and my wife joined me, representatives from the DAV, the Volksmarchers, interested citizens, the press, veterans who have their own story not fully told to the world and on lookers witnessing a 115 day walk from Newburyport, MA to the Kissing Statue in beautiful San Diego.
It has been the trip of a lifetime. I have met thousands of people in hundreds of towns, big and small, from coast to coast. They come in all different colors, representing many cultures, religions, political views and socio-economic levels. People have welcomed me into their homes, offered me food, shelter and money. They have shared intimate stories, cried with me, laughed, celebrated and many even put a pair of shoes on and walked with me.
I have seen America up close and personal. In 15 states, l0 million steps, wearing out 5 pairs of shoes, and enduring rain, sleet, snow, tornadoes, and blistering sun. It has been a privilege and honor to address the core issues that mean so much to me and this nation. I have stayed focused on the number of veterans that take their lives, too many homeless, too poor and inconsistent health care, the need for more veterans in local, state and federal government and working to raise $100,000 for disabled veterans.
I did not walk alone. I had help from so many people that I simply cannot name in this brief letter. But I will never forget you. I will never forget the veteran organizations, those at the local level that make things happen, the ordinary men and women who wanted to reach out and share in this adventure. Did it make a difference? As young Noah in Illinois, John in Glenwood Springs, Cindy in Colorado, double amputee Dave in Mass, Andrea in Jerome, Arizona, Art in Quartzsite, Pete in St. Francis, KS, Teena in Missouri and the countless others this country overlooks, yet are the very heart and soul of this nation. There are literally thousands of others that poured out to greet me and help in this cause and to all of you, I express gratitude and love.
Now what? I have taken a few days to catch my breath, visit my family, even take a nap or two, but sill walking every day. I will now work on my book that I will write by the end of the year and seek a publisher. I will be speaking to schools, veteran organizations and communities as invited. But, I am not done with vetsdontforgetvets.com. You can be sure that I will be creating a non-profit organization, a 501.c.3., that will continue to partner with many other groups seeking to improve the services for our veterans. I will be working hand to hand with at least five of these groups, coast to coast, and will be discussing this on my website blog and Facebook page. I assure you that it will be both exciting and meaningful. I will also be taking my wife Patty on the same path, (yes, by vehicle) across this country to meet as many people as I can that were part of my walk across the country. I will announce the dates of this soon.
In the meantime, please feel free to visit my website and Facebook page, consider helping me reach my $100,000 goal for disabled veterans and write to me, either on Facebook or by email, email@example.com. I would love to continue and extend this national dialogue. I want your ideas, your stories, your vision of what we can do together to continue my/our work to help our veterans.
Thank you for sharing in this walk across this nation with me. I am filled with gratitude, bless the angels that kept me safe (many of them being you) and will always hold you close to my heart. And, thank you Patty, my dear wife for your love and tender mercies.
Blessings and love. William