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Air Force veteran begins walk across America to raise money for vets

By TIM BALK | New York Daily News | Published: May 16, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Walk, William, walk!

William Shuttleworth, a Massachusetts Air Force veteran, plans to make like Forrest Gump, crossing the entire continental U.S. on a trek he began Wednesday.

The difference between Shuttleworth’s plan and Tom Hanks’ fictional coast-to-coast jog: the 71-year-old retired educator’s trip to California is for a cause.

Shuttleworth is raising money, which will go to the Disabled American Veterans Association, according to the website for his walk, Vets Don’t Forget Vets. He said he plans to cover about 25 miles per day.

For context: A marathon is a bit more than 26 miles. For further context: Penn Station is about 26 miles from the Connecticut border.

Shuttleworth said he came up with the idea about six months ago while talking to homeless veterans during a visit to California.

“As I’ve been talking to other veterans, they get the short end of the stick all the time,” Shuttleworth said over the phone as he walked Thursday morning. “They have PTSD, the high suicide rate, lack of appropriate medical care, opioid and alcoholism that’s untreated. And instead of complaining about it, I said: Why don’t I do something about it? And I think if I walk across the country, engage people, it becomes a momentum that has its own force.”

As Shuttleworth makes his 3,000-mile odyssey, he plans to stop and chat to every veteran he can — at homes, VA Centers, American Legions and everywhere in between.

The former school superintendent set off about 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday from Newburyport, his hometown. He brought a tent he plans to sleep in.

Shuttleworth logged 25 miles on his first day, and he said he had already tromped over about 15 miles before noon on Thursday.

But he said he thinks he will probably typically max out around the 25-mile mark due to the volume of people who want to stop and chat; he estimated he met 30 people on the first day.

“They honked the horn, they pulled over, they want to buy me coffee, they want to chat, they have a story about their own family members” Shuttleworth said.

He charted his approximate course for the trip on his website, which will wind through 13 states and culminate at Vandenberg Air Force Base in October.

Shuttleworth will blog along the way on his website.

A serious walker, he said he already covered about 20 miles per day. Now he’s just bumping it up a bit.

“Why not walk a straight line across the country?” Shuttleworth said through heavy breaths Thursday morning. “To engage people to make a difference.”

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