Wearing a backpack with the sign 'Vets Don't Forget Vets,' he starts conversations with strangers to talk about how he feels the country is failing our vets. 72-year-old William Shuttleworth is about halfway through his seven-month journey, spending Memorial Day weekend in our area.
A military vet is on a mission to bring awareness to mental health issues facing our country’s vets, by walking from coast to coast.
William Shuttleworth, 72, worked as a mental health clinician during the Vietnam War. He helped POWs who were returning to the United States. Since that time, the Finger Lakes native built a career on being a special education teacher and then, school superintendent in Maine.
He got his start in the City of Rochester, doing his student teaching with School 13. Last year, after retiring, he had the opportunity to go to California to serve as a camp post at a state park.
“I created some sites for homeless vets and every night at the picnic table I’d hear similar stories…. stories of not getting the services they need, tragedies with drugs and alcohol, constant thoughts of suicide. And I thought, someone can do something about that,” Shuttleworth shared.
So, he decided to be that person.
On May 15, he went to Massachusetts to begin a seven-month journey across the country. He’s walking to California while meeting as many vets as he can visiting VA medical centers, VFWs, and American Legions.
Wearing a backpack with the sign ‘Vets Don’t Forget Vets,’ he starts conversations with strangers to talk about how he feels the country is failing our vets.
“Those dialogs then take place in their families, in their communities. It has a ripple effect, like a pebble in a lake. It can be wide-reaching if you work hard at it," Shuttleworth said as he walked from Route 20 in Cazenovia on Friday with the plan to make it to Canandaigua by sunset on Sunday.
He plans on walking in the Memorial Day parade in Canandaigua.
“It’s not only mental health but also addressing drug and opioid use and homelessness," Shuttleworth said. "These vets on the streets, they didn’t get out of bed today and want to be homeless,"
He’s averaging 30 miles a day and expects the walking trip to take him until Halloween.