FORT BENNING -- Ranger Cory "Smitty" Smith is certainly not the fictitious Forrest Gump, but when he became a civilian this week, he decided to run the 565-mile trip to his hometown near Indianapolis.
Although Forrest Gump didn't know why he was running, Smith began his trek Jan. 3 to raise awareness of the challenges facing transitional and homeless veterans. The 28-year-old veteran had two tours in Afghanistan and served almost four years with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
"I want to inspire veterans who may need to be shown that they can make it through the rough times," Smith said. "This challenge is not even close to the challenges that will be faced by many other veterans.
"I thought what better way to give something to the city and country that I love, while accomplishing something I can while accomplishing something I can cherish for the remainder of my life."
Smith, who became a husband in 2009 and a father in 2010, said he's also running for inspiration to deal with personal challenges caused by difficulties with his marriage.
He has an 18-month-old daughter, Elleigh, in Indiana and said one day he would be able to tell her, and maybe one day his grandchildren, a story of strong willpower and determination.
His run is supported by the Gallant Few, a nonprofit organization that helps Ranger veterans transition from active duty to civilian life. The Gallant Few provides one-on-one mentoring by Ranger veterans, who have achieved successful civilian careers, with new Ranger veterans leaving the service.
While helping himself, he said he also hopes to help others. Smith said veterans today are leaving the battlefield to deal with a "civilian sector that is in an economic struggle."
Despite the uncertainty, he said veterans need to be aware of resources available to them.
Smith conveys a positive, can-do attitude despite the personal challenges facing him.
The day before his run, he put out a small brush fire near his apartment caused by a cigarette tossed carelessly on the ground.
He began his run on a "road less traveled," U.S. Highway 27, which is "a more direct" route for his journey that will take him through Tennessee and Kentucky before arriving in Indiana.
Dropping temperatures didn't deter Smith. He just added running tights under his shorts to begin the journey, which is expected to take around 28 days. He said the "end time is flexible as this has never been tried before."
"It will be in the middle of winter, and it will be a challenge," he explained. "During my run, I am offering an open invitation for anyone to join me -- to help spread the word -- to show support."