Whenever my office phone rings and I see William Shuttleworth’s phone number pop up, I know I’m about to have the most uplifting conversation of my entire day. Since being named MSN’s Local Hero of the Month in May, when he embarked on his cross-country walk to raise money and awareness for American veterans, he has checked in from time to time to let us know how he’s doing. It’s not every day a septuagenarian walks 30 miles in dead summer heat for the sake of helping others — unless you’re William Shuttleworth.
No matter the distance, the heat or wear on his shoes (now his 5th pair), William always seems to have the energy to articulate with arresting poignancy how he believes we as a country can do a better job of serving the veterans being let down. And he never fails to work in an impassioned reassurance, despite whatever is in the news, that the hearts of Americans are full of overwhelming goodness. It’s clear from listening to those who cross his path that his mission is truly impacting the communities he visits.
Now closing in on the final stretch from Arizona to the California coast, William called me hoping to recruit as many people as possible to walk his final mile with him in San Diego, ending his journey at the Embracing Peace statue in Tuna Park. We put the call out to our Microsoft colleagues in the San Diego area, who plan to send a group out to walk with him. We’d like to extend his invitation to you as well.
Anyone wishing to support William in his final mile can meet him at 8:30 AM PT September 1 at Waterfront Park in San Diego. If you cannot join him but wish to donate to his cause, visit our fundraiser for The Wounded Warrior Project or William’s GoFundMe page to help him meet his $100,000 goal.
8:30 AM – 9:00 AM
Walk the last mile with William from the fountain at Waterfront Park to Tuna Harbor Park / Embracing Peace Statue
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Meet William at the Tuna Harbor Park / Embracing Peace Statue and hear about his walk across America
Catching up with William Shuttleworth, Local Hero of the Month
June 17, 2019
You may have seen the story last month of William Shuttleworth, who made headlines as he set out from his home in Newburyport, Mass. wearing a 25-pound backpack, a pair of black Altra running shoes and holding two walking poles. Affixed to his backpack, he also wore a laminated weatherproof sign reading “vetsdontforgetvets.com”.
These were the beginning steps of a 3,600-mile route from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast of California, intended to call attention to American veterans and the struggles they face to get the services they need. At 72 years old, he has maintained an average of about 30 miles per day. As he walks, he is meeting and talking with people in VFW halls, coffee shops and on the side of the road. Some nights he is offered an extra bed in a new acquaintance’s home; on the other nights, he pitches his tent.
MSN honored Shuttleworth in May as our Local Hero of the Month. His story was featured during Military Appreciation Week along with a fundraiser for his requested beneficiary, the Wounded Warrior Project. MSN readers donated $2,600 to the organization, which provides numerous services helping veterans get their lives back on track and become positive forces in their communities.
For those contributions, we thank you.
Shuttleworth is hoping to join a short list of just 41 other people who have managed the coast-to-coast feat, most often in the name of a cause, bannering everything from nuclear disarmament and campaign finance reform to drug addiction, cancer research and food insecurity among older adults. Some died during their journeys. Several wrote books about them.
The stories that are most important to Shuttleworth, a retired special needs educator, are not his, but of the people he meets. On his blog he recounts many tales of both frustration and inspiration: a woman who was denied VA coverage for her husband who died of brain cancer after exposure to Agent Orange; a 92-year-old WWII vet who lied to enter the military and fight for the US at age 16; and endless gratitude for the small kindnesses he encounters daily.
We caught up with William again this week to check on his progress and found him in high spirits. “I feel healthy and I have a strong spiritual core,” he said by phone as he ducked out of the rain in Noblesville, IN. He’s doing his best to consume enough food to replace the 7,000 calories per day he estimates he’s burning. He is now on his third pair of Altra shoes.
But he’s quick to steer the conversation back to his cause. He repeated his call for anyone upset about the way veterans’ affairs are handled to contact their congressional representative to make their voice heard. “The stories people tell me every day would bring you to tears,” he said. He is journaling his encounters daily and as soon as he gets back to Massachusetts he plans to start writing a book himself. “We’re going to bring about a real change in how we treat our veterans,” he said.
You can still contribute to MSN’s fundraiser for The Wounded Warrior Project here. Or visit William’s GoFundMe page, to help keep him on the road and support The Disabled American Veterans Charitable Trust.
Follow William: vetsdontforgetvets.com