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‘We can do a lot more:’ Navy vet walks to raise awareness of veteran suicide, homelessness

WITI-TV Milwaukee logo WITI-TV Milwaukee 7/24/2019 By WITI-TV,Milwaukee
a man standing in front of a building: Tommy Zurhellen © WITI-TV/TNS Tommy Zurhellen

MILWAUKEE -- A veteran is going to unbelievable lengths to raise awareness of major veteran-related issues. Navy veteran Tommy Zurhellen is walking more than 2,800 miles to get this point across. On Tuesday, July 23, FOX6 News caught up with him passing through Milwaukee.

"A lot of people think we're doing a lot for our veterans," said Zurhellen. "We always say 'Thank you for your service,' but if you look at the numbers, we can do a lot more."

A force for change can take a wide variety of forms. This summer,  Zurhellen is that force.

"I'm walking to raise awareness of veteran suicide and veteran homelessness in America," Zurhellen said.

Zurhellen is walking coast-to-coast to highlight the issue he believes is not getting enough attention.

"Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide, and over 40,000 veterans are homeless every night," Zurhellen said.

Throughout his journey, Zurhellen has welcomed bits of hospitality and conversation.

"I've been surprised by just how nice everyone has been. Complete strangers coming up to you on the side of the road, day after day, just wanting to help," Zurhellen said.

The long road has not been easy.

"I've lost 40 pounds on this journey," Zurhellen said. "I've had two sprained ankles. I've lost two toenails. I've been to the doctor twice to take X-rays to make sure my foot's not broken."

Zurhellen is essentially living as a homeless veteran -- sleeping outside and traveling by foot.

"The pain that I feel every day, like, my feet feel right now, is so minuscule compared to the pain that our veterans are feeling.""The pain that I feel every day, like, my feet feel right now, is so minuscule compared to the pain that our veterans are feeling," Zurhellen said.

At a pace of just three miles per hour, the world looks different, Zurhellen said. Positive change seems possible -- and helping veterans becomes a reality.

Zurhellen hopes to finish his walk in New York on Aug. 23. CLICK HERE to learn more about the VetZero program, Zurhellen's journey, and how you can make donations to the charities supporting his effort.

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