Hiker makes trek to raise awareness
Walking with purpose, Dan Lyons, a 61-year old man has embarked on a 2,800 mile walk from Reno, Nev. to Washington, D.C. in an effort to raise awareness about the needs of homeless veterans living across the United States.
Last Wednesday afternoon, Lyons, a retired Concord, California public school’s maintenance worker, stepped out in Shepherdstown on a short break from the last leg of his six month journey.
After paying a visit to the Shepherdstown’s Food Lion for supplies and then the local library, Lyons set out to explain why he’s been braving heat, rain, snow and even a tornado in Texas, on his one-man cross country marathon.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” he said.
Lyons explained that while volunteering in his local community’s homeless shelters and soup kitchens he began to notice a rising number of military veterans living out on the streets.
A Marine Corps Veteran who served in Vietnam, Lyons said that he became disturbed by the frequency with which he saw military veterans, many of whom suffer from mental illness, being turned away for aid and services.
After talking with his local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign of Foreign Wars (VFW) offices, Lyons said he learned of increasing cuts being made to funding for such services.
After countless letters and calls to his Congressional representatives failed to yield more than stock responses, Lyons said he asked lawmakers if they would meet with him face-to-face, should he venture to across the country to the nation’s capital on foot.
“All of them gave me appointments,” he said.
For the past six months, Lyons has sustained himself with only what he can carry on his back, stopping in motels on occasion and relying on the hospitality of strangers for food or places to stay.
Tired, but undaunted in his cause, Lyons said he has made his way across the country at a cost of $3,000 and five pairs of shoes.
“It’s well worth it. This is something really dear to my heart,” he said.
Lyons has spent the majority of the journey along what he called ‘extremely dangerous,’ highways, until he was instructed by friendly locals to hop on the C&O canal towpath and take it right into Georgetown.
After camping out at the Killiansburg Cave campsite Wednesday night, Lyons said he planned to continue down the trail until he reaches DC this sometime this week, enduring record heat and thunderstorms along the way.
“It’s all camping the rest of the way,” he said.
Lyons has scheduled appointments on June 7 and 8 with Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as well as Congressmen Mark Amodei of Nevada, and David McKinley of West Virginia.
Lyons said he will hand deliver a resolution to Sen. McConnell from the American Legion calling for the more funding for mental health services for veterans.
“I’m hoping to get services refinanced or for them to enact more services for veterans,” he said.
In addition, Lyons said he hopes his walk and the ensuing media coverage, will inspire other people to speak out on behalf of veteran’s rights.
“Our veterans deserve better. they need more help and deserve more help.”