A pair of childhood friends is in the midst of a cross-country walk in hopes of seeing the country and raising money for veterans at the same time.
Trevor Stephens and Matt Andersen are both from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Stephens is fresh out of the Marines while Andersen recently graduated from school.
The two wanted a crazy adventure together before settling down and pursuing careers and families of their own. After initially planning a road trip, they instead chose to walk across the country. Along the way, they are hoping to raise $5,000 for the Purple Heart Foundation, which supports veterans as they transition to civilian life.
“When you come back from deployment, being overseas, it’s a new set of challenges you have to face,” explains Stephens. “When you come out of the Corps, you have to get used to civilian life. People struggle with it. Twenty-two is the (number) of veterans who kill themselves a day. Veteran programs want to help those people not face those challenges alone.”
Their trip started in Delaware on March 1. The two friends were immediately challenged with a nor’easter that produced plenty of rain and snow, followed by below-freezing temperatures as they trekked through the Appalachian Mountains.
“I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands,” recalls Andersen. “I was so cold I wanted to throw up.”
Thus far, the duo has made it over 1,200 miles with more than 1,600 miles left to go. They plan to finish their trip by October when they reach San Francisco. The pair is already looking forward to taking a swim in the Pacific Ocean once they get there.
In the meantime, Stephens says he’s already lost 30 pounds, while both young men are developing blisters and losing toenails left and right. However, they’ve also been overwhelmed with generosity, with people offering them food, places to stay, and anything else they need to help them on their way.
“Doing something like this you get plenty of opportunities to meet a lot of people,” said Andersen. “You definitely get to learn how generous people are.”