By Kelsie Hoitomt
Sergeant Chuck Lewis decided to lace up a pair of tennis shoes one day three months ago and has been walking across the United States ever since, raising awareness and funds for military veterans.
“Several years ago, Linda, my wife, and I were sitting home on Christmas eve, wondering what to do since none of our six children were going to be able to make it home for Christmas.
Knowing what it was like to be away from home on Christmas while serving our Country, I decided to stand out on a street corner and remind folks driving by on Christmas morning that not everyone is home for Christmas. I had a sign that read, “Standing here today in respect of those away.”
Having been seen by many that morning, including the news media, several organizations started inviting me to stand at their events. Soon folks were giving me donations and before I knew it I had a thousand dollars in the bank,” said Lewis.
“A year ago, a young Marine came home after a four year hitch and one tour in Afghanistan. He separated on 3 June, arrived home on 4 June and no one really knew he was home until they called for our Honor Guard to bury him as he had taken his own life.
It was then that I had become more aware of suicide within our Military ranks. Our Department of Defense states that since 2005, more “Active Duty” military have taken their lives than had died in combat. And we have lost more than six thousand between Iraq and Afghanistan.
What hit home to me was that this figure didn’t include those that had already separated from their parent service organization.
How much would this drive up that number. Recognizing that this was a nationwide issue and not just one from Montana, I changed the name from “Standing for the Fallen” to “Walking for the Fallen” and headed out across our Nation,” explained Lewis.
His journey began in the state of Washington and he has been making his way across the country with Washington, D.C as his final destination.
Throughout the past week he had been trekking through Wisconsin along Highway 93 and along the river near La Crosse. He finally reached the Iowa border Friday morning (July 12).
His route looks to bring him to the tip of Iowa and Illinois then down into Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina before heading north again to D.C.
Sgt. Lewis is a United States Marine Corps and United States Navy Reserve Veteran. He was an Active duty Marine Corp from 1970-1974 and a Reserve duty Navy-man from 1980-1988.
After separating from the Corps, he went back to school and earned a degree in Electronics Technology. He then went to work for the Department of Defense at the Naval Air Warfare Center in California.
Over the course of 27 years he assisted with the research and development of weapon systems and remote control devices. He also worked in the fields of Foreign Material Exploitation and Training before retiring in 2001.
It was after retiring that he and his family moved to Montana and that is where his military roots began to surface again after he attended an Army friend’s funeral.
It was then that he got involved in the Veteran’s Honors Guard. He began putting together a slide show presentation that gave answers to questions like how many shots should be fired by the firing party and which way the colors should be presented.
He took this presentation and went to Civic Organizations as a guest speaker and he tried to recruit more members into the Veteran’s Honor Guard. Over time this presentation has expanded into three sections; Flag Etiquette, Honor Guards and Veterans- How They Continue to Serve Their Community.