Veterans return from walk to Los Angeles

CREATED Feb 11, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb 11, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - It was a journey that began 5 months ago at the Milwaukee County War Memorial.  Veterans Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss set out on a walk that would take them more than 2,000 miles to Los Angeles to support and raise money for Dryhootch, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans return to civilian life after war and with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

153 days, ten pairs of shoes, and seven states later, Voss and Anderson have returned home to Wisconsin.  “We were just two bearded idiots with some laptops and maps and we made our way from Milwaukee to LA,” Anderson says.

Despite being often mistaken for brothers with impressive beards, Anthony and Tom didn’t even know each other until they met at Dryhootch after returning home.  “Neither of us really had any time to decompress after our deployments so the beginning idea was to take the time to work on yourself, better yourself by walking,” Voss explained.

Walking provided the time to decompress emotionally but physically, pain became a problem.  Especially in the first half of the trek Voss adds, “Iowa and into Nebraska we had some pretty bad blisters going on so there was some painful days in the beginning but we came around."  Anderson admits he was mentally prepared in the beginning but the toll the walk was taking on his body was wearing on him, “You start to question whether or not your body's going to be able to deal with the rigors of it and people start to reach out to you and start saying you've gone 400 miles so far, this is amazing.”

Support came in all forms Voss details, “We had a farm dog walk with us for about 20 miles. This dog decided to walk with us, it led the way for 20 miles and we gave it water and food when we would take a break.  Turns out the that owner of that dog has a daughter who's married to a veteran with PTSD so we thought it was kind of interesting that that happened.”

Strangers opened their hearts and homes for the veterans along their scenic seven state trek, though there was still a bump in the road even as they reached the Pacific Ocean.  "We still have to raise about 20,000 dollars to hit our 100,000 dollar goal," Anderson admits.

But before raising a single dollar or taking a step outside the state, they accomplished something greater, “The most difficult thing is taking that first step to contact another veteran or contact another veterans family members to tell them that you need help or you need someone to talk to,” Voss explains.

Talking, walking and reflecting together, they learned more about themselves after serving their country.  “I'd think about anger and why I would feel angry or I would think about those times when I felt like I could have done more. How I wanted to make sure that I could do that when I came home, so it was definitely worth it,” Anderson says.

Now they hope others will follow in their footsteps and try to make a change in veterans’ lives.  “Don't watch the stories on the news and say well I'm informed now.  Take that information and go out and do something with it.  Try to change the lives of your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers because that's where veterans are,” Anderson exclaims.

Tom and Anthony's official “Welcome Home Party” is this Saturday, February 15th at 1pm at the Milwaukee County War Memorial.  You can still support Veteran's Trek and donate to Dryhootch to help them meet their $100,000 goal.