On the Road with the Booyah Veteran Bus Project!

Marines walk 400 miles for their brothers in arms

Reposted from the Williston Pioneer

Shawn Moore’s feet are swollen, blistered and cracked. The afternoon sun causes water droplets on his freshly washed hair to glisten like diamonds as he goes about  the daily task of medicating and wrapping feet that have walked at least 22 miles a day  for several days. There’s been no walking this day because his feet are so abused, so tender. Not missing a beat as he searches through a med kit looking for larger bandages, he barely looks up from his mission to announce, “I’m fine. I’m doing OK.”

Moore is one of three former Marines who have dedicated themselves to a 21-day trek from Lake Nona to Panama City to raise awareness about the plight of the veteran who, because he lacks personal transportation, is unable to get services he earned from VA medical centers.

Moore, along with fellow hikers Richard McCuen and Shane Johnson, founder of the Booyah Bus Project, and support staff of Charles Anderson and Ray Tharaldson spent Monday evening at Williston Crossings. Wednesday, the five hiked through Chiefland on their way to the final destination of Panama City for Veterans Day next week.

Johnson, the CEO of Booyah Mortgage, which specializes in helping veterans secure financing through VA or other outlets, said he got the idea to start the hike while talking with a friend over lunch.

Mr. Mike, Johnson was told, is a veteran who must walk 15 miles to get to a bus stop in order to catch transportation for a two-hour ride to the nearest VA facility. He is not alone. Many veterans, and not all are homeless, he said, have no way of getting to a medical center. Dependent on public transportation, or their feet, they often arrive late for appointments only to discover because they were tardy, the appointment was rescheduled – as much as three months down the road.

And then there was the story of Ellen Gilbert.

At 80 years old, Gilbert logged over 300,000 miles on her Mazda pickup by driving veterans to their appointments.

“She’s a little firecracker,” Johnson said, “who fulfills our mission: ‘A veteran- whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve- is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of, “up to, and including his life.”  That is honor.  And there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact. 

My mission is to ensure that we give back to those who wrote that check.’. She wants to give back to those who wrote those blank checks.”

The three men walk in Gilbert’s honor.

The almost 400 mile journey has several facets, Johnson said, including raise awareness on the transportation issue, provide refurbished transit buses where veterans can shower, get a haircut and have a meal and provide a safe place for veterans as they transition out of active duty service back into the civilian sector.

Since leaving the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona, the five men have shared more than 22-mile walks.

“I lost two toenails,” McCuen said, showing off his feet after he knelt beside Moore to finish swathing his swollen feet in plastic bandages.

Bears, a bar in the middle of nowhere (“It was just like Dusk Til Dawn,” one of them chimed in.) and the people they’ve met will all make for great stories in the future. In Williston, the RV resort donated the space for the night’s lodging and Green Shutters gave them dinner.

“But it’s the war stories they share at night,” Tharaldson said, “that make the journey interesting.”

Tharaldson, CEO of RLT Productions/American News Broadcasting, is documenting the three-week trip through video and photographs.

Anderson, a former Navy man, follows closely behind with an RV, scouting out locations and seeing his crew has accommodations for the night.

All five men affirm they travel with the support and blessing of the family and loved ones they left behind. All are commited to the cause, evidenced by packing up and leaving homes across Florida and all the way to California.

To learn more about the project visit booyahveteranbusproject.com or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/getonthebuswithus


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