Mike's Hiking for Heroes
Los Angeles, CA (KETK) — Since 2001, more than 7,000 American soldiers have been killed in action during the Global War on Terror, and one veteran plans to honor each and every one of them.
Back in April, former Army Captain Mike Viti began began making his way down the west coast of the United States on foot, planning to walk a kilometer for every soldier who was killed in the War on Terror.
But it's not merely an effort to remember them for their service, but to celebrate them as people, as Americans.
When he took the first step of his hike for heroes at the end of April, he had one goal in mind.
"Celebrate and honor legacies that each of those service members leave behind and pay tribute to them," said Viti.
Viti served five years in the US Army, and says his time outside the military has given him a new perspective on those who serve our country.
"You realize, and have a greater appreciation for how special the men and women you served with were and really the footprint they left, not only on you, but on this country," said Viti.
But the journey is not focused on how they died overseas, but how they lived back home.
"Losing guys in combat, losing teammates, losing classmates and friends from school you really see the sacrifice made by the service members, but the sacrifices that continue to be made by their families who are left behind," said Viti.
Viti makes it a point to meet as many families he can on his trek, and writes the names of the heroes he will be honoring that day on a flag that travels with him.
"That's a mainstay for the project for me, to walk through the hometowns where these guys are from and personally walk up to the door and walk into the house of these families and say thank you, and to let them known that their legacies are being remembered," said Viti.
Averaging more than 25 miles a day, Viti admits, it is taxing, but that's part the project, it's not easy, just as it's not easy for these families to go on after their loved one's death.
But this isn't a journey to remember someone who died, it's to celebrate heroes, and how they lived.
"First and foremost that is a son, that's a daughter, that's a husband, that's a brother or sister and they're American first and I'm really focused on identifying the whole person," said Viti.
His journey will end on December 13th in Baltimore, Maryland at the Army-Navy game.
He is also raising money to help create tributes for these fallen soldiers in their hometown.
To follow his journey, and learn how you can take part go to their website: http://www.mikeshikingforheroes.com/