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Leaving war behind; Bearded Army vets trek from Milwaukee to LA
BARSTOW • Two Army veterans with the hopes of raising $100,000 as they trek from Milwaukee to Los Angeles made a stop in Barstow before reaching their destination.
Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss began their journey back in August in hopes to raise money for Dryhootch.org, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization that serves veterans and their families and educates the public of the issues veterans face as they return from military service.
The two veterans wanted to have some time for themselves once they left the military.
“We needed some time away from all the distractions, to focus on ourselves as there were several issues each of us wanted to address and we felt the best way would be to walk it out,” Anderson said. “We also wanted to raise awareness of the issues influencing veterans and their families. Over the course of the trip we've had the opportunity to meet several vets and family members and listened to their stories. We've also had the chance to meet several people and tell them about things like post-traumatic stress disorder, the veteran suicide rate, veteran homelessness and employment issues, and several other problems that make coming home difficult.”
While the two reached Barstow last week, they took a break from the 2,700-mile journey and enjoyed several popular eateries in the area including DiNapoli’s Firehouse and Jenny’s Grill Steak and Mariscos.
While in town, Anderson and Voss were picked up by members from the Canyon Country Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6885, who provided them with a place to stay since Jan. 17 and have helped with some of the cost of everyday needs, Anderson said.
Anderson said the two enjoyed their stay in Barstow as they continued along Route 66.
“Everyone we met in Barstow was great to us,” Anderson said. “Probably the best thing about Barstow was coming into a city with so much, after walking across the desert where accommodations are less than great, as you can imagine. Route 66 has been a main road for us, when available, since Albuquerque. It's interesting to walk across the Main Street of America and see how some of the towns have been able to maintain the Route 66 heritage while others have faded out.”
As the two embarked on the remaining 160-mile journey to Los Angeles, Anderson said the two will walk approximately 15 to 20 miles a day before ending sometime before Feb. 1.
But the trip hasn’t always been as pleasant as their stay in Barstow.
“Sometimes we sleep outside; we've slept in cemeteries, in camp grounds and along the side of the road as well,” Anderson said. “But often we find ourselves invited into the homes of veterans and their families who have heard about us or follow us on our website or Facebook. Occasionally, complete strangers have invited us into their homes or rent a room for us after learning what we're about.
“When we walk, we eat jerky, granola and powerbars. We drink gratuitous amounts of Pedialyte as well as lots of water. When we stay by people, we eat dinner with them or we just go out and get our own food.”
As their journey ends, they have raised more than $70,000. They’ve grown long grungy hair and beards, as the two agreed to grow their hair for the duration of the trip. After seeking a barber when they return home, the two look forward to reconnecting with friends and family and seek the comfort of their beds.
Anderson looks forward to seeing his wife and 2-year-old daughter, while Voss has a girlfriend awaiting his arrival to Milwaukee.
For more information about the veterans' trek or to donate and help other veterans, visit www.veteranstrek.com or Facebook.com/veteranstrek.
Jose Quintero can be reached at 760-256-4122 or JQuintero@DesertDispatch.com.