It looked like a homecoming for a hometown hero, Wednesday on the southside of Chillicothe. Flags of all sizes lined the Highway 36 exit ramp and up around to Business 36 leading to Comfort Inn.
Once William Shuttleworth, an Air Force veteran, who is walking across the country to raise awareness for veteran’s issues began the last of his 25-mile trek on Wednesday he was escorted by the Chillicothe Police Department, members of the VFW and Elks Lodge. At Comfort Inn, he was welcomed by city officials and crews from the Chillicothe Fire Department and Emergency Services, Chillicothe Police Department officers and members of the local National Guard.
On May 15, Shuttleworth, who served active duty in the Air Force from 1971-1973 then served with the Air National Guard Reserves for several more years, left his home in Massachusetts and set out on a mission. His mission is to bring awareness, not just to the American people he is meeting with and speaking to along the way, but to Congress, about issues facing veterans.
“I do think the American people care about veterans,” Shuttleworth said. “I just hope Congress does.”
Shuttleworth spoke to the crowd gathered at his arrival in Chillicothe telling them the point of his walk across the nation is to bring the issues to light, and he has discovered that most Americans are aware of the issues facing veterans in our country.
“Homlessness, suicide, addiction, access to healthcare and mental healthcare issues plague our veterans,” he said. “Americans as a whole are kind, compassionate and wise. They know these issues, it is Congress who doesn’t seem to know and that needs to change.”
Statistics, quoted by Shuttleworth, say 50 veterans commit suicide each day and as many as 25 percent of homeless men are veterans.
After he finishes his walk and fundraising, in October, Shuttleworth hopes to go before Congress and present a check to the president of the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust. “This organization, quietly and lovingly serves over 1 million soldiers a year,” he said.
During his journey, Shuttleworth said he has been reminded of the goodness of Americans.
“If you want to see what is real and who is real, it isn’t what is portrayed on television. It is the people out, who put these on everyday and get the job done,” he said, pointing to his tennis shoes. “You want to know real Americans, real America and see real wisdom and compassion, it is the Americans sitting in small diners, everyday people.”
Along his route Shuttleworth says he has been lucky to have had the support and generosity of many, in different forms. A hairdresser in Macon reached out to him and offered to cut his hair while he stayed in that town. In Chillicothe, the Elks Lodge paid for the cost of a room at a hotel to get Shuttleworth out of the elements and into a bed for the night; instead of sleeping in his tent. Numerous veterans groups have hosted dinners for him and countless people have just offered conversations.
The walk has been going smoothly, though Shuttleworth joked that he hasn’t stuck to the 20-25 mile a day promise he made his wife.
“I have walked as many as 52 miles in a day,” he said. “I am sure when I see my wife she is going to have done the math and wonder how I got this far already.”
He carries a 25-pound pack and walks 14 hours a day, burning more than 7,000 calories and eats only what he needs to stay healthy. He says, his sacrifices are nothing.
“Imagine what this country would be without veterans, without the men and women willing to sign on the dotted lines and then go do what needs to be done, all in the name of our country. That is true sacrifice.”
To donate to Shuttleworth’s cause, or to learn more about his mission, visit: https://vetsdontforgetvets.com/.