A retired Army infantryman is walking across the U.S.
But no, it’s not a scene from “Forrest Gump,” and he’s not crossing the country on a whim.
Alabama native Van Booth is walking across the U.S. to raise money for Operation Song, a nonprofit program that helps veterans, active-duty military and their families tell their stories.
The program is unique in how it helps veterans tap the power of song, pairing them with songwriters.
Operation Song is close to Booth’s heart. He says that listening to his own story turned into a song was very healing and helped him cope with memories and lost comrades.
He says it’s hard for veterans to remember past trauma they’ve experienced in combat. It’s much easier to talk about that material via music.
“It pairs a veteran with a national hit-making songwriter to help veterans get things off their chest they can’t normally say,” he explained to WZDX. “It seems to be easier to do over song, and it works.”
On Friday Booth had just trekked through the state of Nevada. He aims to cover more than 2,800 miles with just a large stroller, equipped with a pouch to hold his guitar.
“The stringless guitar, meaning a silent guitar, represents the soldiers and veterans who aren’t here anymore,” Booth told WZDX.
“As of today, I’m about 114 miles total in my walk. I have been walking for the past week,” Booth said.
Booth served as an infantryman from 1995 to 2016, taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He has been tweeting from the Pony Express trail in Nevada.
The best part for Booth is meeting new people along the way and having them open up to him.
“The amount of people I run into, the stories, it’s just been amazing,” he said.
Booth is also a member of Bearded Warriors, a veteran support group. There he met his friend Ty Oswald, who along with other members of the group, ise encouraging him along his journey.
“We talk about him every day,” Oswald told WZDX. “We’re all keeping up with him and trying to figure out how to make it easier for him or if there’s stuff he needs and we can drop-ship him.
“We’re super-proud of him. He’s not doing it for anyone but everyone else.”
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