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Man walks across the country to raise awareness for the plight of military veterans

Thomas O'Neil-White

Tommy Zurhellen has gone through five pairs of shoes, two walking sticks and two toenails to make it to Buffalo. With a little over 300 miles to go before he reaches his destination of Poughkeepsie, the journey is now mind over matter for the Gulf War veteran.

Zurhellen has been walking from the West Coast to raise awareness for the plight of military veterans in the United States. His goal is to walk at least 22 miles per day. He said the 22 miles are to honor the average of 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country.

“That’s double the rate of civilians, actually over double the rate of civilians,” Zurhellen said. “And that number is not really going down.”

Zurhellen became interested in raising awareness after becoming Commander of his VFW post in Poughkeepsie. He realized the problems vets were having in his hometown were a microcosm of what was going on all over the country. By traveling on foot, he believed he could better spread the word.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

“If we had the drive or ride across America, it wouldn’t be the same thing because you see the country differently at three miles per hour,” he said. “You really don’t meet the people you want to meet by driving across the country.”

A Vet Zero donation page can be found on the Gofundme website.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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