(Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
This is Mac McQuown's seventh pair of boots since his journey across the U.S. started almost three years ago. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
MONROE (KTVE/KARD) -- A U.S. veteran is on a 15,000 mile journey across the country to raise awareness about veterans issues.
And he's doing it all by foot. Walking on Highway 165 on Monday, we found 52-year old Mac McQuown.
"My four set of tires, plenty of fluids and water."
Miles away from his home in Virginia, he's on a mission.
"I wanted to do something that would bring awareness back to our veterans," said McQuown.
The former U.S. Army reservist and Marine is walking to every state capitol building in "Operation Walk America." He passed through Northeast Louisiana this weekend, and departed on Monday for Baton Rouge.
"When the 9/11 attacks happened in 2001, I noticed when our veterans came home from combat, they seemed to be forgotten about," he said. "Seems to happen with Vietnam, or Korea, or any conflict we're in. That didn't sit very well with me. Every state produces a veteran, so what better way to bring attention back then to walk through the capitol of all 50 states."
After coming to this realization of how he could help, and spending a couple of years planning, it's been one foot in front of the other since September 11, 2011.
"Met a lot of phenomenal people, a lot of veteran heroes, I've had countless adventures," said McQuown. "We have the freedoms that we have because of what they've done for us."
From Ground Zero in New York, he headed south through the east coast and Florida, onwards through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and now Louisiana. He met with local veteran organizations, even checking out the new veterans home in Bastrop.
He pulls a small, 60 pound cart for camping and equipment. He usually camps out, unless there is severe weather.
"This thing has been tweaked and broken and snapped so many times...we push on," McQuown said.
So far, he's covered almost 2,700.
"This has definitely changed my life in a lot of ways," he said. "I have a whole new focus on humanity now. People really do care. You may not see it at the national level, but here on the ground, but people really do care about our veterans."
Since he started his journey almost three years ago, he's lost almost 50 pounds and is currently on his seventh pair of boots. He thinks he has about six more years to go before he's done, but he said he'll keep going, even if it takes 10 years.
"On the days that I feel exhausted, and I can't go on any further, I look back on those veterans over the years that have lost body parts, are in comas, or are restricted to wheel chairs or beds, and I think, what do I have to complain about? And I push on."
Through the rough roads, McQuown hopes one message gets across to helping veterans.
"In any given year, there are 100,000 homeless veterans. Take a moment, and thank them," he said. "We don't want the Hollywood star on the boulevard or the bright lights of Hollywood, we want to be remembered."
He's headed for the west coast toward California nd will trek back to the east. Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is the finish line.
You can follow his journey on his website, www.operationwalkamerica.org or his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/macmcquownwalking.
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