Kevin and David began their walk with their feet in the Atlantic Ocean on April 28th in Atlantic City. Along the way, they visited baseball parks and had their names on the scoreboards in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The mayor of Denver took them onto the field and introduced them to the crowd. A baseball with “FIRST PITCH” written on it came after they threw out the first pitch at a minor league game in Wilmington, DE.
Both were on the field before the San Francisco 48ers and Green Bay Packers football game and David took the game ball to the referee at the 50-yard line.
TV stations in Phoenix and Oklahoma City had segments about them and they didn’t even pass through either city or state. Indiana mayors in Richmond, Greenfield, and Terre Haute had proclamations for them.
The wrapped RV and SUV were signed by many well-wishers along the way. Many GOLD STAR families, those who lost family members while serving in the military, had trouble writing the name of the lost one or their own name through their emotions of remembrance. Stories related to them from GOLD STAR families are too numerous to mention, many bringing tears. The RV was loaned to them by a former major league baseball player and the SUV was donated by Dellen Family auto in Greenfield and will be given to someone who adopted a veteran on the $22 button on their website, routeforthebrave.org. The 22 is for the number of veterans who commit suicide every day.
There were some close calls along the route on U.S. 40 with traffic passing by so closely; the rattle snake that was ready to strike David, but there were no injuries. Training for two years prior to the walk conditioned both men, but even so, there were blisters, sore feet, sore ankles, a broken toe, and a few leg problems occurring during the four-month walk.
Their goal was to raise $3 million dollars to assist Helping Hands For Freedom (HHFF) in obtaining land and building a “House of Healing” for GOLD STAR families and veterans returning from deployment. When feasible the House would also bring the wives and families to the home. With the “House of Healing” their hope is to include animal therapy with horses, dogs and other animals to help the veterans with PTSD and slow the rate of suicide which happens all too often to those heroes who come back from our wars.
Many find raisers were conducted as they arrived in cities and towns across the country. Most nights were spent in hotel/motel rooms provided by the owners/managers. Meals were provided by organizations, pubs and restaurants along the route.
Veterans, GOLD STAR families, friends and others joined them at different places as they walked. Wherever they stopped people had the opportunity to sign the RV and SUV. At two different stops, a GOLD STAR mother and a young 23-year-old widow were so emotional they could not spell correctly their soldiers names who had been killed in action.
From the beginning in Atlantic City there was a videographer who recorded the four months of this journey. The photographer plans to make a documentary of the four-month trek with hopes of making it available for some form of media coverage.
Every day prior to the beginning of the walk, David would explain where they were, say thanks to those who had fed them and those who had provided lodging for them the night before and something about what they had seen/visited the day before. Then Kevin would dedicate that days walk which would be for a military person killed in action, concluding with “America Have a Great Day”. Those names came from people they met along the way or were sent to them via social media.
Some highlights included the visit to the site of the 911 plane crash in Pennsylvania, the portion of the Berlin wall where Winston Churchill gave his speech at a college in Missouri, the Mississippi River, the mountains in Colorado, the desert in Nevada, the wild mustangs in Nevada, the deer walking with them in several states, and the rattle snake which came much too close.
A closing dinner with great emotions was held in San Francisco. Attending were family members, including parents of both walkers, the founders of Helping Hands For Freedom, members of HHFF, and sponsors of the walk. Debbie Lee, mother of Mark Lee, the first Navy Seal Killed in Iraq spoke, then presented the walkers and founders of HHFF with medallions from her organization.
Both men were very glad to be headed back home after each wearing out 14 pair of shoes, but indicated they would not have missed the opportunity to see this great nation and its’ people from all along route U.S. 40, the purple mountain majesty, wheat blowing in the wind, beautiful streams, the mountains, and the awesome sunrise and sunsets across this great nation.
They stated they were not walking home but taking a nice relaxing plane ride.
May God continue to bless both Kevin and David and Helping Hands For Freedom.