CLINTON — According to Google, it’s 3,134 miles from the Boston area to Vandenburg Air Force Base, California. A person could drive the route in two days - 9 hours, give or take 12 hours – 35 minutes in delays in moderate traffic. William Shuttleworth is taking the trip on foot, and he stopped in Clinton this week.
“This is my living room, kitchen and bedroom,” Shuttleworth said as he put down his backpack on Monday to talk to the Journal. “I didn’t expect it to become the national media frenzy that it has. My wife says I’m the most famous pedestrian in America right now.”
Shuttleworth referred to his trek across the country to raise awareness about the needs of American military veterans, or more to the point, how those needs aren’t being met.
MSN and Fox News have picked up Shuttleworth’s story as he adds about 30 miles a day to his journey, which started 30 miles north of Boston in Newburgh and will conclude at Vandenburg Air Force Base. In May, MSN named Shuttleworth “Hero of the Month.”
He met veterans at the Clinton American Legion hall on Monday, and the Clinton Fire Department arranged for Shuttleworth to have overnight lodging. He said he was bracing for the much hotter weather he expects to encounter as he heads west.
In addition to raising awareness about the plight of many vets, Shuttleworth says he’s advocating an action plan to fix the problem. Shuttleworth hopes to be in California by September or October.
His trip hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. Shuttleworth was introduced to a bit of Midwest spring weather.He was startled while in Ohio by what turned out to be a tornado siren and had to take cover.
“We don’t have those in Massechusetts.”
In spite of that, and having to endure the heavy spring rainfall this year as he travels through the Midwest, Shuttleworth is upbeat and enjoying his conversations with people along the way.
“I have met literally hundreds and hundreds of people as I walk across the country focusing on what veterans need and what the delays are.”
The retired educator and U.S. Air Force veteran hopes when he returns from his trip he will have the opportunity to address Congress and share information.
Vetsdontforgetvets.com is Shuttleworth’s website.
“I’m a one-man operation. I know that sounds a little silly, but after listening to veterans for so many years, I know one person can make a difference,” Shuttleworth says.
He says the more he travels across the county, the more he is convinced many veterans have given up hope, “and I want to make a difference for them.”
Shuttleworth is concerned about the rate of suicide among veterans.
“Fifty a day kill themselves.”
He also worries about the spotty, “sometimes terrible” medical coverage afforded to U.S. veterans.
“I’m concerned that one out of four homeless people you see on the streets is a veteran,” he says.
Veterans Administration funds available to care for veterans are not allocated correctly, Shuttleworth says.
“I’d like to have an independent council and a full audit,” he said about VA operations. “I’d like George Mitchell of Bill Cohen to do an independent audit of where that money is going.”
He said of $190 million allocated for homeless veterans, “not a dollar has been spent.”
Shuttleworth has established a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $100,000, all of which will go to Disabled American Veterans.
“My hope is to awaken the spirit of common, ordinary citizens coast-to-coast to build a coalition that says, ‘We’re going to do something different; we’re going to make a difference’.”
Shuttleworth hopes to present a check for at least $100,000 to the Disabled American Veterans organization before he addresses Congress.
He plans to ask Congress, “Americans seem to care about veterans, why don’t you?”