Woman walks across U.S. to support troops, veterans
July 23, 2009
A comparison could be made between Keela Carr, a recent visitor at Fort Riley, and Forrest Gump, the main character in the 1994 Academy Awardwinning movie of the same name.
Both have made multiple trips across the United States on foot, and both support homeless veterans.
Carr made a stop during her second tour across America July 14 at Fort Riley's School Age Services to meet with children and Soldiers. She began by telling her story and then answered dozens of questions from the children and a few from the Soldiers.
"I am doing this for several reasons," Carr said. "We're walking in a show of gratitude for our veterans and in support of our troops. This year, our focus is to raise money for homeless veterans. There's a patch of land that we want to buy and give these homeless veterans a physical address so that they can get the benefits that are rightfully theirs."
Carr, who quit her job as a personal trainer in Apopka, Fla., started her second trip on Flag Day, June 14, at the rear gate of Fort Irwin in Barstow, Calif.
On average, she said, she can walk about five miles per hour, as she is accompanied by her dog, Kobe, and a support vehicle of volunteers.
Just before arriving at Fort Riley, Carr hit a snag when one of her volunteers who was following her on her journey in an RV, opted out of the trip.
Carr and the remaining volunteers said that they would regroup at Fort Riley and continue on with the trip.
"We are hoping and praying to be finishing in D.C. in Arlington on the 14th of August," she said.
A trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center about two-and-a-half years ago prompted Carr to begin looking at things differently and gave her the idea to go on the cross-country walk, she said.
"For me, at that time, it was a lifechanging experience," she said. "It kind of just set me on fire. It just realigned my personal priorities. You don't have a reason to complain. You don't have a reason to - you have fingers and arms and hands and what are you complaining about' If you don't like something, change it. You don't like how that's going, change it. Get up and do something.
"It was just a situation where I was pressed just enough to get out of my own little comfortable - this is my little spot where I'm comfortable - and that was just enough pressure to pop me right and say, 'Okay. You gotta move outside of your own box and do something amazing.'"
The plot of land she wants to buy has a $300,000 price tag, and Carr said that donations to her organization, A Thousand Thanks, have been low so far.
She said she has recently heard from National Veterans Homeless Support, an organization that she is working with, that county officials are just about ready to donate the land for her cause.
"The thing that I hope mostly is that this event shows people that everybody can do something," Carr said. "I'm a chronic severe asthmatic. I couldn't join the Army because I've got asthma too bad. But this is what I can do. And if I, one asthmatic girl, can do this, what can some well-connected person do' What can some educated person do' Or a rich person do' Everyone can do something."
For more information about A Thousand Thanks, visit athousandthanks.us.