A journey of many miles begins with a single step. On Monday, a group of 12 people took their first steps on a 222-mile trek to show their love and support for a wounded warrior while raising money to help his family.
Family members and friends of Cpl. Joshua Hargis, who lost both of his legs during a series of improvised-explosive-device attacks while stationed in Southern Afghanistan last October, set out from the parking lot of Fort Stewart’s EOD facility on Highway 144. The group will walk for the next 17 days through the backwoods and smaller highways of Georgia en route to Fort Benning’s National Infantry Museum.
Sgt. Patrick Griffith, event organizer and Hargis’ brother-in-law, knew he had to do something grand to help his sister, Taylor, and her husband with the costs associated with equipping Hargis for his new lifestyle. The family’s medical expenses are expected to exceed the military’s financial coverage. The couple also is expecting their first child in May.
“We had a big brainstorming session — stream of consciousness type thing,” Griffith said. “We sat down with friends and family and thought about what we could do for Josh that would be awesome.”
Since Hargis is stationed at Fort Benning and Griffith is stationed at Fort Stewart, it was decided that a walk between the two points made sense. Griffith said that Hargis didn’t ask for any of the attention he has received since his injury, but Griffith wanted to do something big and meaningful that would raise awareness for his brother-in-law’s cause.
“Initially, it was supposed to just be me walking, but then others contacted me asking to walk with me. From there it has taken about four months of planning to get here today,” he said.
The group, which includes multiple family members and Hargis’ and Griffith’s friends and fellow soldiers, will walk for 17 straight days, stopping only for meals and in the evenings to make camp and rest. An RV fully loaded with supplies for the next couple of weeks will be driven by Griffith’s father, Scott Griffith, and will follow the group on its journey.
Griffith said that sticking to the back roads and highways will offer a safer route and allow participants to enjoy the scenery. It also will provide them with ample locations to stop and set up camp at night.
“We have the RV, but no one will be sleeping in it … there is barely room for all the supplies. We’ll all be camping out under the stars,” he said.
A lot of supplies were needed to make sure the group has enough food and water for the entire trip, and Griffith wanted to be clear that these supplies were personal donations and would not be coming out of donations made to the walk.
Griffith noted that the support has been amazing, with individuals and groups donating more than just money to the cause. Household goods, baby clothing and furniture have been coming in.
Griffith is walking with a white sign hooked to his backpack to advertise their website, www.thewarriorswalk.com. He hopes passersby will visit the site for more information on the group’s mission and, perhaps, make a donation to the cause.
Jeremy Berardi, who attended basic training with Hargis, knew the walk was a way to support a friend and brother-in-arms. Currently stationed at Fort Polk, he said his command was very supportive in approving his leave so he could participate in the walk.
Berardi said that walking was the least he could do to support his friend, whom he has been in touch with and who he said is very thankful to those participating in the walk.
“He hit me up last night to say thanks. He is really appreciative of what everyone is doing,” Berardi said.
Hargis will get to participate in some of the walk himself. Griffith said Hargis and his wife will meet walkers at a designated point about 4 miles from the finish point and will complete the walk with them. Hargis is able to walk through the use of prosthetic legs and has been working to get ready for this event.
The marchers are posting updates on their progress on their Facebook page, Facebook.com/TheWarriorsWalk. Griffith said through the use of Go Pro video cameras, they also will film portions of their journey to share on their website and through social media.