A long walk through Sisters

 

Last updated 12/14/2022 at Noon

BILL BARTLETT

Coleman “Rocky” Kinzer (with beard) Justin “JD” LeHew, and Raymond Shinohara (orange jacket) spoke of their cross-country mission.

On June 6 (D-Day), Justin “JD” LeHew and Coleman “Rocky” Kinzer, both retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeants major, set off on a cross-country American journey, from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. They walk in support of America’s missing and killed in action from all wars and conflicts, Gold Star families, and to highlight other charitable causes supporting veterans from all walks and challenges of life.

On August 18, they were joined in Elgin, Illinois, by Marine veteran Staff Sergeant Raymond Shinohara, who served with both LeHew and Kinzer during their time in the Marines.

Enroute to Sisters on December 5, they were met nine miles east of town by some three- to four-dozen veterans with full-size flags at the popular viewpoint that marks the highway as a Medal of Honor Highway. In an often tearful ceremony, the three spoke eloquently about their mission.

The trio arrived later that afternoon in Sisters for a warm welcome sponsored by Sisters Band of Brothers. The trio overnighted in Sisters after meeting Mayor Michael Preedin at City Hall, where they were gifted small quilts by Quilt Show Executive Director Dawn Boyd.

They had reached Bend on December 2, and were waiting for conditions to improve on the Santiam Pass.

Accompanied by two Oregon State Police patrol officers, they made a reconnaissance ride to the Pass, which is now filled with snow. OSP cautioned them to delay their walk a few days. The fear was that, on the downhill side, cars might lose control. They perceive their greatest danger to be Tombstone Pass, as Highway 20 rapidly descends.

“ODOT plows have gone back and cut an extra 12 inches into the snow banks to give us more safety,” LeHew said gratefully.

They told The Nugget about their many emotional encounters along the way. For one, the place where US20 passes through Waterloo, Iowa. This was the home for the five Sullivan brothers, World War II sailors of Irish-American descent who served together on the light cruiser USS Juneau and were all killed in action during and shortly after its sinking around November 13, 1942.

LeHew told us: “We’ve had 20 more stories just like this, stories of incredible sacrifice.”

Answering a more trivial question, Shinohara said that they are on their eighth pair of shoes.

Kinzer, when asked about the snow, said: “There’s more of it than we expected and a lot colder, but that only motivates us more.”

The trio explained the symbolism of their walk. Their journey began at the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. The route they selected is historic US Highway 20, America’s longest road. This specific route was chosen to highlight the long journey home that over 81,000 missing U.S. servicemembers have been trying to make since World War II.

It also symbolizes America’s longest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the men and women who fought there. It has been 20 years since 9/11 thrust America into war. The Highway 20 long march is their tribute to all those who served and sacrificed much in the service of this nation, both past and present.

“The USS Constitution was selected as the journey start point to honor our naval traditions and service to this nation as Marines,” the men explained. “The rucksacks we carry represent the heavy burden carried by generations of warriors who have served in our nations ranks since 1775, as well as the weight of a nation that we carry in combat to live up to the promise that we will never surrender and never leave a fallen comrade behind.”

They are being welcomed by many across the 451-mile section of Highway 20, an Oregon Medal of Honor Highway. Team Long Road (TLR) as they are called will pass 12 Oregon Medal of Honor Highway signs as they cross the state. They will walk on a portion of Oregon’s POW/MIA Memorial Highway and cross Oregon’s World War I, World War II, Korean War memorial highways, and Purple Heart Trail.

From Sisters the men were to make their last leg, a 50-hour stretch of 153 miles, hoping to make Newport, where Highway 20 intersects with the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway on US Hwy 101. Coast-to-coast US Highway 20 measures 3,365 miles and runs through 12 states full of history and natural beauty.

BILL BARTLETT

Three U.S. Marine veterans are walking across the country to honor service and to raise awareness for charitable causes.

LeHew and Kinzer collectively served in the Marine Corps for a total of 56 years on active duty, and are two of America’s most highly decorated combat veterans who have served since the end of the Vietnam War. They have been working together for years, not just in uniform, but outside of it as they have been circumnavigating the globe in the search for America’s missing and killed in action, investing their own money in the search and recovery of America’s lost heroes.

The three Marines together are completing their epic journey across America to spread the word of the plight of our nation’s missing (MIA) and killed (KIA) in action as well as reinforce the principle of never leaving a fallen comrade behind and the ethos: “I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper.”

They emphasized that “it’s not a walk to set records, but making younger generations aware of the sacrifice of others and hoping to increase their pride in their country.

 

Reader Comments(0)

 
 

Our Family of Publications Includes:

Https://www.nuggetnews.com/home/cms Data/dfault/images/masthead 260x100
Sisters Oregon Guide
Spirit Of Central Oregon
Spirit Youtube
Nugget Youtube

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2024

Rendered 05/04/2024 16:42