Combat Veterans Walk 3,000 Miles for Cancer Research, Pass Through NELA

From the battlefields, to the U.S. highways, two former drill sergeants are marching from South Carolina to California -- all in the name of cancer research.
WEST MONROE -- From the battlefields, to the U.S. highways, two former drill sergeants are marching from South Carolina to California -- all in the name of cancer research.

Combat veterans Wayne Whitbeck and James Allred have embarked on a journey called "Ruck for a Cure." They passed through the Northeast Louisiana this week.

Wearing their old army boots and carrying a military ruck sack filled with the essentials, the two are making it a goal to travel 3,000 miles from coast to coast to raise awareness and money for cancer research.

The veterans have setting their sights on a different type of enemy, not seen on the battlefield.

"My father was diagnosed with glioblastoma," said Whitbeck.

Cancer is their new enemy. And they're raising money for a cure, one step at a time.

"If I put my left foot in front of my right foot, and walk every day to try and raise a couple of dollars, then I myself can do something about the horrible disease," said Whitbeck, a Virginia native.

After a year of planning, they began their journey in myrtle beach, South Carolina.

"We were like, 'Let's ruck march across America and raise money along the way,'" said Allred, Wisconsin native. He and Whitbeck have been best friends since working together at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

The duo said the first two weeks were rough.

"Blisters, sore achy bones. I think now though, we're sitting at 845 miles done, and I think we're building a little bit of a resilience," said Whitbeck.

And the southern weather has given them a roller coaster ride.

"We kind of got into this knowing that it was going to be hot, going to be cold," said Whitbeck.

Even with 20 years of military experience and 5 deployments between them, they say the 35 to 45 pound rucks still get heavier with each day.

"The belts are nice when you start going uphill, it puts the weigh on your hips and shoulders," said Whitbeck, demonstrating how he carries his camouflage colored ruck.

So far, the duo is eight weeks into their journey. They've trekked 850 miles to get to Northeast Louisiana and they're using Highway 80 as a guide across the country, making it a goal each day to walk 60, 000 steps.

Each carries a personal story -- Allred's mother is battling cancer, while Whitbeck's father lost his fight last year.

"People that are out there suffering from the disease and they're fighting it, battling it every day, they're going through a much more rigorous routine than we are every day," said Whitbeck. "By seeing that we're willing to take that step forward, hopefully someone is willing to fight just a little bit harder for it."

For safety, they have a support vehicle on hand that also works as shelter at night -- but one is always walking at all times. They said a support driver they had at the beginning of the journey dropped out after a week.

"Not all roads are safe to walk on , so we have to use that as a contingency," said Whitbeck.

Their final destination is San Francisco, which they hope to reach it sometime in August.

Even though the going can get tough sometimes, they say it's worth it.

"In reflection, somebody that has to go through chemo or radiation a day might not want to do it, but they don't have the choice, so we try to keep the same mentality," said Whitbeck.

Their goal is to raise $50,000 to donate to the St. Jude's Cancer Research facility. So far, they've raised $5,000.

If you would like to donate to their cause, go to www.ruckforacure.org. They encourage anyone to share pictures of their loved ones battling cancer, or who have lost their battle -- they will dedicate a day's walk to that person.

You can also visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

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