71-year-old Air Force veteran walking across America to support veterans | SummitDaily.com

71-year-old Air Force veteran walking across America to support veterans

William Shuttleworth stopped in Silverthorne and Frisco to meet with local veterans and town officials

Ross Leonhart
Vail Daily
William Shuttleworth, left, a 71-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran, met Tuesday, July 23, in Silverthorne with Stuart "Boot" Gordon, 95, who served in World War II as a fighter pilot. Shuttleworth was passing through Summit County as part of his “Vets Don’t Forget Vets” seven-month walk across the United States from Massachusetts to California. He also stopped in Frisco before continuing his journey west.
Courtesy photo

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 Veterans of Foreign Wars members over coffee in Avon on Friday, a little more than halfway through his seven-month cross-country journey.

Before heading west to Eagle County, Shuttleworth stopped Tuesday, July 23, in Silverthorne and Wednesday, July 24, in Frisco.

The father, grandfather, former teacher, psychologist and veteran left his Newburyport, Massachusetts, home on May 15. He’s averaging about 30 miles a day. 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 not only to raise awareness about veteran issues but also to advocate a plan for better support.

24-hour crisis help
  • Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • For life-threatening emergencies, call 911

“The issue about veterans has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “This is a red, white and blue issue.”

Two veterans die by suicide every hour, Shuttleworth said, and there are 62,000 homeless veterans. Another problem Shuttleworth sees is that Congress is made up of few veterans.

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
  • Increase starting pay for enlistees to a livable wage.

Shuttleworth has set up a GoFundMe page and is hoping to raise $100,000.

“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 are more compelling than they are fun,” he said.

From Quincy, Illinois, to St. Francis, Kansas, he crossed two states all on U.S. Highway 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 and prays each night that the phone doesn’t ring.

He met one veteran who lost both legs and now is 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.

“Every day is just amazing,” Shuttleworth said.

This story is from VailDaily.com.


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