10 million steps: 71-year-old veteran walking across America to support veterans
William Shuttleworth meets with local veterans while in Eagle County
How does a 71-year-old retired U.S. Air Force veteran go about walking across the country?
Last summer, William Shuttleworth was running a campsite in California and created three spaces for homeless veterans. Every day he would hear their stories of struggle, hardship and suicidal thoughts.
“I walk 20 miles a day, why not walk in a straight line across the country to help veterans?” Shuttleworth said to local VFW members over coffee at Bob’s Place in Avon on Friday, a little more than halfway through his seven-month cross-country journey.
The father, grandfather, former teacher, psychologist and veteran left his Newburyport, Massachusetts, home on May 15. He’s averaging about 30 miles a day. It took him about 70 days to get to Vail. When he arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, he will have taken 10 million steps across 13 states.
Shuttleworth is walking across America to not only raise awareness about veteran issues but to advocate a plan for better support.
“The issue about veterans has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “This is a red, white and blue issue.”
Shuttleworth said his concerns about veterans revolve around the suicide rate, the rate of homeless veterans and the decreasing number of veterans in Congress.
His five-step plan to help veterans includes: Elect a vet; eliminate veteran homelessness; provide free medical care for veterans; guarantee medical and mental health treatment; and increase starting pay for enlistees to a livable wage.
“All that money goes to the veterans,” he said.
People of America
Along the way, Shuttleworth is stopping and speaking with communities across the country, including veterans, local and state officials, and people in coffee shops.
“The stories area more compelling than they are fun,” he said.
From Quincy, Illinois, to St. Francis, Kansas, he crossed two states all on Route 36, about 580 miles.
“The heat bothers me more than anything,” he said.
Along the way he met one mother who has seven of her children deployed overseas, praying each night that the phone doesn’t ring.
He met one veteran who lost both legs but was running his own garage.
“He said, ‘I feel like your legs are my legs and you’re walking across America for me,” Shuttleworth recalled.
Small towns in Kansas and Colorado have welcomed him with motorcades, fire trucks and Boy Scouts.
In Vail, local veterans took him in. Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek will be housing Shuttleworth on his way out of Eagle County. At Bob’s Place, members of the VFW Post 10271 Minturn sat around a table drinking coffee with Shuttleworth, telling jokes, stories about grandkids, escaping the heat and Vail’s early days.
“Every day is just amazing,” Shuttleworth said.