One group is traveling from Seattle to Tampa, while another veteran began in Jacksonville Beach and is San Diego-bound.
BAY COUNTY — While one veteran begins his hike across America, another group is about to finish one — all in support of their fellow veterans.
Navy veteran Shane Moore, 45, started a hike from Jacksonville Beach a few weeks ago and passed through Youngstown and Panama City this week while on his way to San Diego, where he hopes to finish in late March. Moore is traveling coast to coast to raise awareness and money for homeless veterans, and is accepting donations for that cause on his website hikeforvets.com.
Meanwhile, the national Team RWB Old Glory Relay plans to pass through Panama City Beach on Friday. Team RWB, a nationwide organization that helps “veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity” started in Seattle on Sept. 11 and will complete their trip in Tampa on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, carrying an American flag the whole way.
The Panama City RWB chapter will be at Harley-Davidson, 14700 Panama City Beach Parkway, at 7 a.m. Friday and head off to Port St. Joe along Highway 98 to pass off Old Glory there, a trip they made last year, chapter captain Kelly Elrod said.
“We would like to involve the community by asking them to set up ‘Wave Stations’ to provide refreshments/snacks and cheer members on as they run by,” Elrod said. “If your business or group would like to generously support our members by setting up a station on our route along Highway 98 on Nov. 3, please contact Carrie.Brooks@teamrwb.org or Kevin.Carlen@teamrwb.org. They can provide you the times of when Old Glory will pass by your establishment.”
As for Moore, he’s going it alone on his hike, though his brother and a shipmate from the Navy are helping with the logistics. Moore served in the 1990s and almost became homeless a few years ago after his savings account ran dry.
Though he got a new job in Michigan courtesy of his shipmate, being on the brink of poverty stuck with him so much he’s considered doing the hike for a while. He to do it this fall and flew down from Michigan to start the hike in Florida.
“Not everyone who ends up homeless, especially veterans, is because of drugs and alcohol,” Moore said.
Moore feels prepared since he already does a lot of backpacking and hiking, and has actively avoided hotels in lieu of setting up camp on the side of the road at night. He carries two gallons of water with him, has a wood stove to cook with and makes sure to carry around oatmeal and protein bars.
“I’m equipped to make myself breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
However, even he relies on the camaraderie veterans have for one another, since he sometimes stops at veteran organizations when in a town, and planned to check out the AMVETS posts in Bay County to see about staying the night. He’s even knocked on the doors of houses with American flags if he needs somewhere to crash.
Moore posts regular updates on his Hike for Vets Facebook page, and though he’s come across some snakes and spiders, hasn’t had major troubles so far.
The hike “has been really good up to this point,” Moore said. “Things have been going really well. … It’s my first time doing something of this magnitude.”