They thought it would be a long walk. But they have found themselves on a listening tour.
David Roth, chairman of the board of the non-profit Helping Hands for Freedom, and school teacher Kevin Winters started their walk across America on April 28 in Atlantic City. All along U.S. Highway 40 they have been joined by veterans and Gold Star Families who wanted to talk.
“People want to track you down and tell their story, which is the whole purpose of the walk when it’s said and done,” said Darin Fishburn, publicist for Route for the Brave.
The two men and their support crew will be in Hays today. They will have dinner at 6 p.m. at the American Legion, where members and guests are welcome to join them.
They also will be at the Hays Larks game at 7 p.m. at Larks Park. Their effort will be recognized during the third inning, and the organization will have an information booth at the park during the game.
The American Legion also is making a donation to Helping Hands for Freedom and providing them rooms for the night.
The mission of Helping Hands for Freedom is to help Gold Star Families, Fishburn said.
The term originates from banners flown by families during World War I that included a blue star for every family member serving in the armed forces. A blue star replaced by a gold star meant the serviceman had died. The tradition has carried on through current times.
It was a desire to make more people aware of what the gold star means, as well as raising awareness for the challenges faced by their survivors and service men and women who return from deployment, that inspired the idea for the walk about three years ago, Fishburn said.
Money raised during the walk will go to a house of healing for Gold Star families, where they can live until death benefits begin and get assistance in rebuilding their lives.
The support has been overwhelming, with people joining in for part of the walk and even just handing out water bottles as they drive by, Fishburn said.
“Seeing the country and the people that care one step at a time has been amazing for these guys,” he said.
Progress on the Route for the Brave can be followed at Facebook.com/Routeforthebrave. Fishburn said more likes and shares of the page will garner matching fund for the cause when they reach San Francisco.