Robert Rudy saw a billboard in 2010 with a troubling statistic. It read that there were over 100,000 homeless veterans living in the United States. A veteran himself from the Desert Storm, the number stuck with him. When he looked again in 2014 and saw that things had not gotten better, he decided to do something.
“I decided that I was going to walk from coast to coast to raise awareness about this homeless problem. I figured I would experience what it is they experience to gain a better understanding of how to help them,” Rudy said.
And so his journey began in October, beginning in California with an end destination set for Washington D.C. Pulling a rolling cart filled with supplies and some camping gear on his back, Rudy set out on foot to walk the country. Nearly a month after his start and some 400 miles already walked, Rudy found rest in Ely’s Veteran’s of Foreign Wars building on Nov. 13.
“Being a veteran is belonging to a brotherhood. When I walked into the VFW here in Ely, it was like meeting a bunch of friends for the first time,” Rudy said.
The Oklahoma native said that though he was still in the early goings of his trip, that he was already learning and seeing a lot, including taking in his surroundings in a way that he had never done before.
But nothing compares to the people he has met so far, he said. That includes a meeting with a veteran in Fallon that was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“When I spoke with him, he was considering killing himself. After three tours in Afghanistan, he wasn’t the same,” Rudy said, adding that stories like this were one of the things that inspire him when he feels like he can’t walk anymore.
But not all the people he has met are under such grim circumstances. Many, in fact, are just people looking to help. According to the veteran, many drivers would pull up to him and offer him water, or a ride into the nearest town. He said that displays of compassion renewed his faith that there are “good people in America” that care about others, even when they are a total stranger.
“I had one gentleman ask me what I was doing this for and when I told him, he bought me dinner,” Rudy said. “Many other people have helped me out already. It shows you that people really do care about one another.”
Rudy has received more than just the support of random passersby as well. He is backed by his Christian church in Oklahoma as well as a group of veterans and military wives, all of whom keep tabs on his progress via his Facebook page. Rudy said that he does his beg to keep a travel log through Facebook, documenting his travels and publishing any pictures he takes along the way. Though still small by today’s mass viral standards, Rudy’s page has already grown from 20-something followers at the beginning of his trip to over 100.
He’s hoping that by continuing to meet people along the way, as well as speaking to the press as he goes, he can garner enough support during his trip to ultimately speak to the congressional committee that handles veteran’s affairs when he arrives in Washington D.C.
“Things are broken for our veterans when we should be taking care of them. I’m sick of waiting for the government to actually do something about it.”
To follow along with Rudy’s cross country journey, follow him on his Facebook page RLRudy A Walk to Remember.