DENVER -- For the past two months, William Shuttleworth gets up every morning before dawn to walk west and beat the heat. He carries everything he needs on his back, fueled by the purpose of his journey from one coast to the next.
"You walk across the country because you think you’re making a difference," Shuttleworth said. The Air Force Veteran has been walking through the eastern plains for the past couple days, stopping in small Colorado towns from Wray to Keenesburg.
"It was 106 yesterday for the last five miles that I walked," Shuttleworth said. "It almost melts your shoes." He's currently on his fourth pair since starting his journey from his Massachusetts home outside Boston.
Why would a 71-year-old man endure all this? He wants to build a grassroots coalition to advocate for veterans. Shuttleworth says the idea started when he was managing camp grounds in California, encountering many homeless vets who struggled to make ends meet and get treatment they desperately need.
He figured since he walks about 20 miles every day, why not walk across the country, meet veterans along the way, and hear their stories and struggles.
"It’s not uncommon for me to come into a small town and be greeted with a motorcade of American Legion riders," Shuttleworth said. "You see nothing but decent, common, ordinary, hard working, gracious loving people that would do anything for anybody."
Shuttleworth got a ride to Denver for the weekend, and plans to go to different VFW and American Legion hubs along the front range, before he gets dropped back off in Keenesburg to continue his trek to Los Angeles.
"I want to reduce vet suicide. It’s now up to two an hour," Shuttleworth said. "I want to decrease homelessness. There’s 62,000 homeless vets in America."
He also wants veterans to have the same healthcare plans offered to members of Congress, get more vets to represent the American people in the House and Senate, and raise more than $100,000 for disabled veterans.
He hopes to start a non-profit dedicated to getting homeless vets into housing when he's finished, and report his findings to Congress.