By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A Marine veteran from Ohio is walking across the country to raise awareness of the needs of veterans help raise money for two organizations that assist veterans.
Justin Kuhel left Tuesday morning from Tucumcari on his 78th day of walking on his 2,534-mile voyage from Camp Lejeune near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California.
“The best part of this journey has been helping out the veterans,” Kuhel said. “The next best things have been meeting many great people and fellow veterans along the way and getting an opportunity to see parts of the country I would have not seen otherwise.”
Kuhel has been walking since May 23 toward his goals of rasing awareness for veterans and to raise money for the Head Strong Project, which provides free mental health care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and Help Our Military Heroes, which builds specialized vans for severely wounded veterans.
“Both of these organizations do so much for veterans and I am hopeful I can help raise money for them to continue their work,” Kuhel said.
Kuhel said the idea behind this cross country journey came to him two years ago when he watched a documentary about a wounded veteran and his struggle to adapt to life back home. He said the veteran was a Marine who served in the same company as he did from 2006-2010.
“I was on patrol when he was shot and injured,” Kuhel said. “I had not thought about how returning home would be for him and other wounded veterans.”
Kuhel said he was motivated by the story of the veterans fight to recover from injury and adapt to life back home. He said as a tribute he walked from Columbus, Ohio, to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
The 400 mile trip took Kuhel 18 days to complete, he said he had such a positive experience he wanted to duplicate it on a much larger scale.
Kuhel said with the help of a local charity and the support of his family and friends, he set out on his walk. He said he has had a driver with him every step of the way, as volunteers, including his mother, father, friends and veterans, have filled that role.
Currently, his brother-in-law Marcus Deja is driving with him from Amarillo, Texas to Albuquerque. Kuhel said once in Albuquerque, two of his cousins will fly in to take over as drivers.
“I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends and fellow veterans,” Kuhel said.
Kuhel said it has been a long trip and he has been so grateful for the generosity of the people he has met including those he has met in New Mexico.
While In Tucumcari Kuhel and Deja were treated to lunch and dinner at K-Bobs Steak House courtesy of franchise owner Ed Tinsley III.
Kuhel said K-Bobs has offered to provide him and his driver with meals as they travel through New Mexico. He said the gesture of a free warm meal is appreciated as well as the rooms being provided by Motel 6.
“It makes a difference when you don’t have to eat fast food or sleep in the car,” Kuhel said. “This trip has not been cheap and any help is greatly appreciated.”
In the past K-Bobs has run special promotions such as free meals for veterans on Veteran’s Day, said Cathy Griffith, K-Bob’s director of marketing.
“What Justin is doing is admirable and we at K-Bobs want to do our part in honoring those veterans who have served our country,” Griffith said.