A U.S. Air Force veteran is walking from the east to the west coast to go the distance for other vets. William Shuttleworth, 71, made a stop Wednesday in northwest Missouri’s Chillicothe. He tells Missourinet affiliate KCHI in Chillicothe that he’s making the cross-country adventure to bring attention to the many veterans he says who are not getting the VA services they need.
“Last summer, I had the privilege of running a camp for the state of California. I created three campsites for homeless people – they were all vets. Everyday sitting at my picnic table, I heard nothing but sadness. I heard they were suicidal, depressed, had no medical care, couldn’t get services out of the VA, couldn’t get a job,” he says.
Shuttleworth says other big problems for veterans are what he calls “red tape” and “the runaround” from the Veterans Administration.
“It is almost unbelievable. The Veterans Affairs just last week, we found out that they have $190 million to provide housing for homeless vets and not a dollar has been spent. I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of vets that feel they just aren’t getting the services, it takes so long to file the claim, it gets denied over and over again. That’s my biggest concern. Other than the homelessness, the drug issue is also a very important one to me,” he says.
When he returned home from the California camp, he told his wife about his walking plans.
“Since I’m in such good shape and I walk 20 miles a day, why not walk across the country and engage people in a hand-to-hand coalition – grassroots support to listen to America, some veterans and advocate for better changes in services for them,” Shuttleworth says.
He expects to start on his fourth pair of walking shoes Friday while he’s in St. Joseph.
Shuttleworth started his walk on May 15 near Boston and plans to finish in mid-September at Vandenberg Air Force Base in San Francisco. As for his journey so far, it hasn’t all been fun and games.
“Of the 40 days I’ve been walking, it’s rained 28. I’ve had two encounters with near tornadoes. It rained so hard that I couldn’t actually see my feet,” says Shuttleworth. “Now I’m probably going to be approaching near 100-degree heat for a month. That is probably going to be my biggest challenge.”
He says the challenges are worth every bit.
“If you want to see how great America really is, put on a pair of shoes like I have and start walking across the country,” Shuttleworth says. “You see decent, incredible, gracious, kind, intelligent, thoughtful human beings.”
Shuttleworth hopes to end his walk in mid-September at Vandenberg Air Force Base in San Francisco.