LIMA — U.S. Air Force Veteran Jerry Meadows has walked approximately 800 miles over a year and by this fall will walk 1,700 miles to bring awareness to the Wounded Warriors Project.
Meadows, 62, originally from New Mexico, walked Thursday afternoon along U.S. 30E in front of his blue van driven by his wife, Virginia. Wounded Warriors Project is a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and active duty service members with physical and mental health programs as well as their spouses and caregivers.
As Meadows walks, he totes an oxygen tank behind him, and his wife follows in their blue van. He needs oxygen because he had a triple bypass and stents. The van has U.S. and Wounded Warrior flags hanging from the back of the vehicle.
He wears an Air Force hat, sweatshirt and T-shirt as he walks while drivers honk and wave as he walks by.
“We took an oath to serve when we joined, domestic or foreign, and there is no limit on that,” Meadows said. He said veterans are returning home with PTSD, lost limbs and there are 22 veteran suicides per day.
When he started the walk, temperatures were 35 below zero in Minnesota and he has experienced rain.
Meadows served as a nuclear specialist, guarding the nation’s nuclear security system.
“Forty years ago I didn’t quit on America, and 40 years later I’m not going to quit on our veterans,” Meadows said.
He began his journey March 14, 2019, in Bemidji, Minnesota, and plans to arrive this fall in Jacksonville, Florida. He has walked through Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio along his journey.
The van is supplied with food and clothing and needed medical supplies and he sleeps in the vehicle at night.
His favorite part has been meeting other veterans along the way and receiving handshakes and hugs from them.
“I met a Korean War veteran — that is extremely rare. I melted, realizing he paved the way for me to walk down this highway and do what I’m doing,” Meadows said. He said people come up to him and cry and thank him for what he is doing and take a selfies with him.
Meadows’ wife said he has a passion for veterans.
“Someone has to go along to keep him out of trouble. He loves his veterans and brothers and sisters, and I agree with him that we need to start taking care of them,” Virginia Meadows said.
People who would like to donate can go online to bit.ly/2EdXW26
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.