A Florida U.S. Army veteran and his service dog received a hero’s welcome home after completing a roughly 2,650-mile cross-country journey on foot.
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS | Ken Brock took his dog, Pam, for a walk five months ago.
Sunday, the U.S. Army veteran and his service dog received a hero’s welcome home after completing a roughly 2,650-mile cross-country journey on foot.
Brock and Pam walked from Keystone Heights in southern Clay County to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — undaunted by heat, tornadoes, torrential rain, snow and life-threatening traffic — on behalf of Wounded Warrior Project.
The pair made the trek to promote the nonprofit’s programs for veterans and active-duty military with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Brock and Pam started walking Feb. 1 at Amvets Post 86 in Keystone Heights. Pam rode in a cart pushed by Brock, who wore out seven pairs of shoes during the journey that concluded June 27 in Idaho.
“It was a journey that spanned more than 2,600-plus miles, but it’s a journey I will never forget,” Brock told a standing-room-only crowd packed into the Amvets Post on Sunday.
“With the people that have touched my heart along the way, the different outlook that I’ve got now from what I had when I left, America is beautiful. It really is,” he said in a voice filled with emotion.
Brock has PTSD stemming from his military service. Pam, a yellow Labrador retriever, is his faithful companion and service dog. Wounded Warrior Project has been instrumental, Brock said, not only in his life but the lives of thousands of other veterans.
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He wanted to help the organization so it can continue its mission of helping others.
Brock and Pam had raised at least $9,300 in donations as of Sunday evening for Wounded Warrior Project. Contributions still are being accepted at WWP.
The donations will help injured military personnel living with traumatic brain injury (TBI), PTSD and physical injuries get the vital support they need.
“It’s important for me to support those who sacrificed so much for our freedom,” Brock said when he launched the walk. “By fundraising for Wounded Warrior Project, I’m helping wounded warriors thrive in life back at home, post-injury.”
“I just walked. And walked. And walked. ... You all carried me through it,” Brock said, thanking the Amvets members and all the other people who’ve supported and encouraged him along the way.
His Facebook page went from seven followers to over 1,700 as he chronicled his walk.
“I relished every night when I pitched a tent or was in a hotel when I got one, looking through those posts, reading them. It gave me encouragement. It warmed my heart, and it gave me energy to get out there and keep going the next day and each day after that,” Brock said.
Wounded Warrior Project, headquartered in Jacksonville, helps wounded veterans and active duty military personnel via a variety of services and programs. More about the organization, its mission and other information is at WWP help.
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Keystone Heights residents came out in the sweltering heat Sunday afternoon to welcome Brock and Pam home.
They cheered, held up homemade welcome signs and waved tiny American flags as Brock and Pam — riding in a Camaro convertible — were escorted by veterans on motorcycles and police back to the Amvets Post when his journey began.
Brock is an inspiration, said Tina Bullock, a longtime Keystone Heights resident who cheered and held up a welcome home sign for Brock even though she doesn’t know him.
“I’m always so amazed when people, just on their own, take up a cause and they go forward. They don’t complain. They don’t whine. They just look for solutions,” said Bullock, who represents the Keystone Heights area on the Clay County School Board.
The Amvets celebrated Brock’s homecoming with a barbecue lunch, as well as hugs, handshakes and more than a few pats on back — for Brock — while Pam got friendly scratches behind her ears.
Brock is the second man completing a cross-country trek to raise public awareness as well as donations for a nonprofit helping veterans.
John Tate of Oregon City, Oregon, accompanied by his dog, Jax, bicycled from Canby, Oregon, to Ponte Vedra Beach raising about $20,000 in donations for K9s For Warriors.
Tate and Jax — riding inside a trailer pulled by Tate’s bicycle — began their ride April 10 and pedaled into the parking lot of Camp K9, the nonprofit’s Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters, on Tuesday .
Their goal was to raise awareness and funds for K9s For Warriors because of Tate’s belief in its mission and his support of the military.
Tate and Jax — a 4-year-old German short-haired pointer — raised at least $28,000 of their $30,000 donation goal. Contributions can still be made at the K9s For Warriors website. donate
K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI and/or Military Sexual Trauma (MST) as a result of military service post-9/11.
Tate blogged about their three-month journey and their experiences along the way at Rolling with Jax. During the ride, they stopped at veterans monuments throughout the country to pay respects to the military and those who gave their lives.
This story originally published to jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.