Vietnam veteran brings cross-country awareness walk through Glenwood Springs Saturday
At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, William Shuttleworth has a speaking engagement scheduled at the Elks Lodge in Glenwood Springs.
Last summer, while working as a campground manager in California, 71-year-old Air Force and Vietnam veteran William Shuttleworth saw and heard the horror stories of homeless veterans around the picnic table each night after reserving three camp sites for homeless veterans.
Hearing nothing but terrible stories from the veterans who were suicidal, on drugs,and couldn’t get homes through United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Shuttleworth felt compelled to do something himself.
An avid walker who trekked nearly 20 miles each day for exercise, Shuttleworth put together a plan to turn his daily walks into something more useful.
So, he started walking across the country from his home in Newburyport, Massachusetts to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California. Over seven months he hopes to raise awareness for veterans and all that they’re going through.
“I just felt so badly hearing those stories and seeing those veterans in those conditions, that instead of getting depressed myself, I thought why not walk 20 miles a day through the country to demand better services for our veterans?,” Shuttleworth said during a phone interview from his rest stop in Gypsum.
“I’m focused on making sure veterans aren’t forgotten and can get the help that they need from our VA.”
On May 15, Shuttleworth left his home in Newburyport to begin his trek across the country, hoping for a zen-like trip along the way. Instead, what Shuttleworth encountered right away was an outpouring of support from veterans, as well as other men, women, and children who believe in his mission.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” Shuttleworth said, taking a moment to gather himself. “I truly thought it might be a quiet walk across the country with just myself and nature. But I’ve met thousands and thousands of men, women and children that really care about this cause and want something done.”
He said the outpouring of support he’s received has been absolutely remarkable, and he’s been welcomed into every community he passes through.
“That said, I’ve discovered that every preconceived notion about the VA and treatment of veterans is pretty accurate,” Shuttleworth said. “We need to do much, much better than that.”
Aside from raising general awareness, Shuttleworth has five key points he’d like to focus on when it comes to better treatment of veterans:
• Elect a vet at the national, state and local level. “Vets don’t forget vets,” he said;
• Eliminate veteran homeless by 2030.;
• Free medical care for any veteran who was ever drafted and was discharged with an Honorable Discharge as there are too many veterans that don’t qualify for veteran medical services because they didn’t meet service length obligations;
• Guarantee medical and mental health treatment within 30 days for all veterans; and,
• Increase starting pay for enlistees to a livable wage.
So far on his walk, Shuttleworth has raised more than $52,000 toward his goal of $100,000 through his company, “Vets Don’t Forget Vets.”
On Saturday, Shuttleworth will make his way into Glenwood Springs for a two-day stay. He’ll meet with members of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition at No Name around 10:30 a.m. before walking the rest of the way into Glenwood.
Around 5:30 p.m., Shuttleworth has a speaking engagement scheduled with the Elks Lodge in Glenwood Springs, before then taking two days to rest before getting back on the road on his walk to Vandenberg Air Force Base.
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A volunteer-led Carbondale organization is dedicated to helping people out of homelessness–if they want it.