SYCAMORE – Chuck Lewis and his wife have a tradition: Every morning they sit down together and discuss their plans for the day.
At a morning session late last year, Lewis, 62, revealed that – having met all his goals in life – he had hatched a plan to walk across the country.
Lewis, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, left Everett, Wash., in March in hopes of drawing attention to veterans’ issues and to raise $50,000 for his charity, Walking for the Fallen, which aids veterans.
Now Lewis and his wife, Linda Sappington, conduct their morning talks via phone so that she can provide logistical and moral support. Lewis arrived Sunday in Sycamore and plans to stay until Wednesday, so he can take a break from his walk to visit the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.
“I started out kind of nervous,” Sappington said. “I wanted to be a wife to him long distance, but I found out that was very difficult ... and then I just realized that he’s going to be fine.”
A Montana veteran’s story provided the catalyst for Lewis, a native of Ronan, Mont.
“A year ago we had a young Marine come home that did four years in the Marine Corps with one tour in Afghanistan,” Lewis said. “But nobody knew he was home until they called for an honor guard to bury him because he had taken his own life. That was probably the factor that drove me to the walk.”
More than 2,100 miles into his journey, Lewis has raised $22,264 for his charity. His jogging cart, which holds camping gear and food along with a host of military flags and symbols, is equipped with a GPS that sends his position to a website every 10 minutes.
But Illinois’ hot, humid weather recently has cut into Lewis’ 20-miles-a-day average.
“I’ve seen snow; I’ve seen sleet, wind, rain, just about everything, and here in the recent days, I’ve noticed your heat with the high humidity,” Lewis said. “That’s got my attention and slowed me down a little bit. ... I had a great welcoming [Sunday] as I walked into Sycamore.”
Through it all, Lewis says his sacrifice couldn’t compare to that of the friends he lost in Vietnam.
“I’m not getting any younger. Probably not getting any healthier, and having served in Vietnam, I lost friends there,” Lewis said. “I got 40 years that they didn’t get. That’s the bottom line.”
Walking for the Fallen
P.O. Box 581
Ronan, MT 59864