My plan is to do four hikes of 20-22 miles each, reflecting and helping decrease the tragic number of veterans who take their own lives each day. The remaining miles to hit 100 will be covered by my regular, shorter daily walks. I don't have dates worked out yet, but the "symbolism" looks like this:
1. Walk from my home in Golden Valley to Minneapolis Children's Hospital, where I started the patient TV channel when I returned from being an Army medic in 1972. Dr. Ron Glasser, who wrote "365 Days" about his work with injured soldiers during the war in Vietnam, was a pediatrician there for a time. More recently he wrote "Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds," about soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. From Children's I will walk to the Minneapolis VA on a day when the Save Our VA From Privatization vigil is going on, and then I will walk to the Mississippi River National Park area, as one of my goals is to finish walking in all the national parks by the time I reach 100.
2. Walk to the Lake Harriet Peace Garden, then on to the homeless tent village encampment near there. I served on the committee to develop the peace garden as a place where anyone, but I hope especially veterans, can meditate outdoors to find their own inner peace. Also a place for leaders to find the strength and the courage to negotiate much more international conflict peacefully. This, so fewer veterans and families end up homeless, along with many fewer refugees whose homes are destroyed in war-torn countries.
3. Walk to the clinic in Bloomington where I get EMDR therapy. I am married to an EMDR therapist, so I have known about and been able to access this more effective form of trauma therapy for many years with private insurance. My wife is the therapist who started the Veteran Resilience Project (VRP), fighting to make EMDR available to veterans. I have been on the VRP advisory and an intense volunteer from the beginning. I will also be walking for the Brandon Act, asking that all mental health care for veterans be confidential, as lack of privacy on top of stigma is a big factor in preventing veterans from reaching out for help. From the clinic I will walk to the site of the Bloomington farm I worked on through high school, and then on to the Mall of America, the farm turned baseball stadium when I left there in 1961 to do JFK's 50 mile hike.
4. Walk to St. Paul, to the Como Park Labyrinth, another place of meditation for harmony in the heart, then in the family, then the community, and we hope the world. After walking the labyrinth, I will go on to the corner on Highway 61 where I began my 61 mile hike at age 61, this one calling for creation of fewer veterans through more enforcement of international law, as well as more country-to-country diplomacy and conflict negotiation. Also, for those who do serve, zero tolerance on poor veteran care, especially in the most neglected areas of mental health and exposure to chemical toxins.
My grandfather was a World War I veteran and member of the Legion. When I joined, I was horrified - still am - to learn a major reason for starting The American Legion was to help veterans fight for the benefits they deserve and were promised. The hypocrisy of that being a need then, and still 100 years later, is unconscionable.