William Shuttleworth is a man on a mission.
He’s walking across the country, from Newburyport, Massachusetts to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California as a way to bring attention to the plight of American veterans who’ve fallen through the cracks.
The Legionnaires of Sharon Springs Post 1269 learned about Mr. Shuttleworth’s cross-country journey just before Memorial Day and arranged to meet with him at the local Stewart’s Shop as he was passing through Schoharie County on May 22.
As the crow flies, the trip would be about 3,000 miles, but using highways like Route 20—walkers are prohibited on the interstate—Mr. Shuttleworth’s will total about 3,600 miles.
Mr. Shuttleworth, 72, is an Air Force veteran and a special education teacher in Maine.
Legionnaires gave Mr. Suttleworth short tours of the monuments in front of Sharon Springs Central School and of the Parsons Road Cemetery, which the Legion is reclaiming from years of neglect.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for Revolutionary war militiaman Christopher Ryns and his wife, Katrina.
In a conversation at the cemetery, Mr. Shuttleworth said he likes to get on the road by 6am, covers 20-30 miles a day, and stops at about 5pm so he has time to buy food and cook dinner on his camp stove.
He only carries the essentials in his back pack; along with the camp stove he has two sets of clothing, a sleeping bag, pad, and water, which he picks up at gas stations and garden hoses along the way.
Mr. Shuttleworth said told the group that he never sleeps in motels, usually pitching his tent beside police stations and sometimes staying with family, friends, or acquaintances; he was looking forward to a visit with his sister when he passed through Canandaigua.
Mr. Shuttleworth’s philosophy is “We can’t depend on the government to take care of our veterans as evidenced by the 22 vets a day committing suicide.
“This data is from a 2013 study based on info from only 20 states and from incomplete records,” he continued.
“When it comes to the homeless, national statistics show there are 636,017 of which 67,495 are veterans. Forty-five percent suffer from mental illness, 50 percent from substance abuse; they are without jobs, proper medical help, and struggling with PTSD…
“We are not helpless, we are stronger than Congress,” he told the Legionnaires. “We can make a difference for our vets.”
Other veteran’s statistics:
• 89 percent of homeless vets received an honorable discharge from the service.
• 67 percent served more than three years.
• 47 percent are Viet Nam vets.
• 15 percent served before Viet Nam.
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Donations to support Mr. Shuttleworth’s efforts to help vets can be made to Disabled Veterans of America through Vetsdontforgetvets.com.
One hundred percent of the donations go toward vets in need.
Mr. Shuttleworth also accepts personal donations to help fund his trip.
Contact him at (207) 844-0666 or email@example.com.
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“The News Bureau at MSN has designated William as their ‘American Hero of the Month,’” said Frank Masterson Jr., who serves as the Schoharie County American Legion’s public information officer.
“Without question, he is certainly ours.”