“Any good ideas come from God,” Richard Hunsucker said during a break in Ramona Sunday afternoon. “I kept thinking this was something I needed to do. The thought kept coming back to me. It felt like God was tapping me a bit. I finally told my wife I needed to go before He whacked me harder.”
Hunsucker, from Green Bay, Wisc., is walking across America to raise money for Disabled American Veterans.
He believes veterans who have become disabled through service to their country are in desperate need of services “without all the red tape.” In an effort to provide funds for needed services to U.S. disabled veterans, Hunsucker embarked on a journey that would lead across eight states and take about 202 days.
A former U.S. Marine, Hunsucker U.S.M.C left the Duvall County War Memorial in Jacksonville, Fla. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Day 194 in Ramona brought his total miles walked so far to 2,493.6. His plan is to end this leg of the journey at the Balboa Park War Memorial on Memorial Day for a total of 2,650 miles.
“There are survivors of wars all around us,” said Hunsucker. “We all grow up seeing them — missing limbs, with the scars of battle both on their skin or some you can’t see.”
For veterans who have died, for those still living and for those yet to come home the journey isn’t one the troops should have to walk alone, Hunsucker believes.
“They need help and services and support without months of red tape that it sometimes takes,” he said. “It is my hope to do something about it.”
Hunsucker’s journey was supposed to come with the help of two support drivers to carry supplies and help along the way.
“They didn’t even show up,” he said.
Hunsucker has made the long trip by driving ahead for the day’s scheduled walk, leaving the vehicle and then returning from the start point.
“I’ve never had to walk twice,” he said. “Someone has always provided a ride back to where my walk started in the morning.”
“Our mission is to walk across America raising donations and bringing awareness to disabled American veterans,” he said. “On this walk we will visit veterans’ medical centers and outpatient clinics interviewing disabled veterans, doctors, nurses, family members and the public. The Walk Across America Team goal is for every family to donate one dollar. All donations will go to Disabled American Veterans.
“I would like everyone in America to walk with me. Just $1 in an envelope. Just a dollar. If everyone that reads this will mail just $1 and then give this address to friends, families and co-workers through phone calls or e-mails, the word will spread. Just $1 from each person in America can add up to so much. We will raise $125 million just by people walking as far as their mailbox and sending only $1 apiece.”
The dollar is minimal, but the impact is huge, said Hunsucker.
“We have what we have in this country because of veterans,” he said. “Just $1. It is such a small amount that will add up to a big way to say thank you. Veterans fought for our freedoms here. Now we, as a single nation, can act together to help them.”
As Hunsucker takes a break, changes shoes and rehydrates at the pace car, the miles are written on the vehicle. The U.S.-made car sports the signatures of perhaps thousands of people. Navajo code talkers, generals and enlisted military members all have picked up a pen and added thanks for the journey. To date, Hunsucker has raised more than $500,000 in promised pledges.
The kindness of strangers has provided food and places to stay during the journey. Hunsucker sleeps in the pace car but welcomes the hospitality of new friends along the way.
“It is the younger generation this will affect,” he said. “People need to understand the conflicts overseas keep the battles off our own soil. If the military gets smaller or starts to look weak — that is when the battle could come on our ground. We don’t need that.”
Hunsucker will spend the next few days visiting veteran hospitals, VFW halls and military installations. He plans to meet this week with Congressman Duncan Hunter to discuss concerns for veteran welfare this week. Once the journey is symbolically finished and “ended” at Balboa Park, Hunsucker will return to Wisconsin. The car will be auctioned, so he plans to walk back.
“If you know a vet, are grateful for the freedom this country provides for you or are even a veteran yourself, please show support by sending a dollar (to the address below),” he said. “Mail or e-mail, it doesn’t matter. Just $1 to support disabled veterans. Show them they are appreciated and not forgotten.”
To “walk with Rick” (to the mailbox) and donate $1 to for disabled veterans, the address is: DAV Gift Processing — 28127, P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250.
For more information on Hunsucker or to read the blog, go to vetwalking.org. E-mails (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone calls (920-562-4250) are appreciated. “I always keep my phone charged,” he said. “It is a long way home.”