Three retired U.S. Marines who are walking across the country left Bend Monday on the final leg of a 3,300-mile journey.
They got a big sendoff from local veterans who honored the Marines’ efforts to raise awareness of America’s killed and missing in action from all wars and conflicts.
“Absolutely, we are glad to be near the end,” said Justin LeHew, Long Road Team member. “It’s been 3,200 miles and change and we aren’t getting any younger.”
They started walking June 6 from Boston and have averaged 20 miles a day for the past six months.
“For shoes, I’m using boots, waterproofs boots made of Gortex,” said Raymond Shinohara, Long Road Team member. “I’m wearing snowboarding pants and a nice shell. You can be cold at first but once you hit the road you start to warm up pretty quick.”
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LeHew, Shinohara and Rocky Kinzer spent the weekend resting in Bend, the longest break of the entire trip.
Now they are hiking up and over snowy Santiam Pass on their way to their final destination: Newport on the Oregon coast.
“Before we started, there weren’t a lot of people who knew what that black flag below the American flag that flies on every post office and federal building is,” LeHew said. “We have a generation that doesn’t really know what that means anymore.”
The Marines are walking the entire length of Highway 20, the longest highway in America, to raise awareness of the 81,600 Americans still missing in action from WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars and other conflicts. They take turns driving their support vehicle.
Funds they raise are dedicated to searching for and recovering the remains of lost heroes.
They expect to arrive in Newport by December 17 where they will be greeted by their families who will walk the last couple of miles with them.
“At the end … being done and not having to walk … being able to go see my family,” is what Shinohara is looking forward to. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen them. I’m also looking forward to sharing the stories along the way that we’ve experienced on the long road.”
Nearly a thousand Oregonians are among the 81,600 service men and women still missing in action.
The retired Marines say they are happy to reinforce the U.S. military’s principle of never leaving a fallen comrade behind.