Three U.S. Marines and their service dogs will walk approximately 100 miles from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the Freedom Tower in Manhattan to honor two Marines who were killed in action.
The Marines will leave from Philadelphia on September 1 at 8 a.m. and will walk about 12 miles a day. They plan to arrive in New York City in time to participate in 9/11 memorial ceremonies with members of the FDNY.
“The Long Walk is going to be a great experience while honoring the memory of our fallen brothers,” said Steven Walls, formerly of Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 7th Marines.
Walls, along with Devon Richio and Andrew Einstein, each formerly of 4th Civil Affairs Group, are walking to honor Corporal John Thornton of Kilo Company, who was killed in action on February 25th, 2006 in Ramadi Iraq, and Staff Sergeant Christopher Diaz, a Military Working Dog Handler who was killed in action on September 28, 2011 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The Marines won’t be making the 9-day journey alone. Their three dogs, Ava, Kyra, and Gunner, will accompany them. Each Marine received his dog through a different program and the dogs have been positive influences in the lives of the veterans.
“Without [Gunner], I don't know where I'd be today,” Einstein said. “He has given me the ability to do things I would have not been able to do without him. Having him by my side has drastically changed my life.”
The walk is about stepping away from the normality of civilian life and confronting PTSD by taking a Long Walk and dealing with the issues facing Global War on Terror Veterans, according to a press release.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Between 10 and 18 percent of veterans of the War on Terror are likely to have PTSD after they return and are at risk for other mental health problems like depression, which affects up to 25 percent of returning troops.
All proceeds raised, not used for the walk, will be split between an art scholarship in Corporal Thornton’s name and the Staff Sergeant Diaz Foundation, “The Dawgz Project”. Donations can be made to the Marines’ GoFundMe Account at http://www.gofundme.com/thelongwalkusmc.