Veteran walks across America to end veteran suicide, homelessness

Published: Aug. 1, 2019 at 6:02 PM EDT
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(8/1/2019) - U.S. Navy veteran Tommy Zurhellen arrived in Flint by way of Owosso Thursday.

He's been walking 22 miles a day to symbolize the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

"I've been visiting with local veterans organizations, the local VA hospitals and just getting a sense of how veterans are coping all across the country. And what we're finding is, the issues are pretty much the same as back home," he explained.

His feat started on April 15th in Oregon. Zurhellen's plan is to end his walk across America at his hometown, Poughkeepsie, New York.

He said he was inspired to help from his own experience as Commander of the VFW.

"It felt like you're just throwing a bucket of water in the ocean. So, I wanted to do something crazy, something big; and, I challenged myself to answer the question - can one person change the world? Hopefully we're changing it today," he said.

Thursday, Zurhellen reached the 2,000 mile mark.

To honor his extraordinary effort, a number of community organizers came together at the Catholic Charities Center for Hope.

"I'm lucky if I get a mile in, you know," Bob Wilson, VFW District Commander for the thumb region, said.

He's honored to see the support Zurhellen is receiving.

"It really means a lot to the veterans who are suffering; and like he stated, we don't - veterans don't ask for help, they got a pride in supporting their country. But it's really nice," Wilson said.

Zurhellen added it's not just a campaign for suicide awareness; it's also a reminder there are more than 40,000 homeless veterans on the street every night.

"I wanted to stop many times," he said. "But, every time I think about the pain our veterans are facing, that totally trumps any kind of knee pain or foot pain I'm experiencing that day; and it just keeps me going."

Zurhellen is now headed Detroit.

If you'd like follow the end of his journey or to support his efforts, click on the 'Related Links' section of this story.