Thomas Wayne Hudson, The Walking Veteran, visits Tupelo Mississippi
19 Jul

Thomas Wayne Hudson trekking from Vegas to D.C. for Veterans.

Daily Journal

M. Scott Morris  Jul 19, 2016

TUPELO – A 63-year-old man is walking from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C., to stand up for veterans’ rights.

He’s been through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, and he spent Monday in Tupelo.

“How do I do it? One step at a time,” said Thomas Wayne Hudson, who began the walk in his Las Vegas hometown in May.

An Air Force veteran from the Vietnam War era, Hudson’s ultimate goal is to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., in October.

“We’re wanting Congress to listen to the vets, not to the unions, not to the VA,” said Hudson, who has been researching Veterans Administration abuses.

Along his odyssey, he’s been meeting with governors, mayors and other lawmakers to discuss the needs of veterans.

“It’s not just a photo opportunity,” Hudson said. “Every state has some form of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

On Monday, he met with Mayor Jason Shelton at City Hall. Hudson asked about the treatment of homeless veterans.

Shelton said that while population numbers are difficult to pinpoint, there’s been an effort to establish housing for veterans in east Tupelo.

Hudson also encouraged Shelton to consider creating a “veterans court.” That’s where a judge who is a veteran handles criminal cases involving veterans.

The point, Hudson said, would be to steer people with post-traumatic stress disorder into treatment programs, rather than jail.

“It’s about seeing that vets get help,” Hudson said.

He has a long list of ideas to present to Congress when he reaches the nation’s Capitol.

He would like to make sure VA leaders who display gross negligence are fired, rather than moved to different facilities, and he wants increased protection for whistleblowers.

As he’s spread his message, he’s dealt with ups and downs. Hudson said he was caught up in a protest in Albuquerque, and delayed by another protest in Memphis.

He’s also made friends. Police officers knocked on his hotel room door in Byhalia at midnight to offer him a box of doughnuts.

Hudson said a Mississippi state trooper assured him that officers would look out for him until he reached the Alabama line.

“I’ve had all kinds of support,” he said.

He pulls his gear in a wagon decorated with lights and flags. He has a big umbrella to protect from the rain and sun.

“It gets tough out there with the humidity,” he said.

A cancer survivor, Hudson said he’s walked most of the way, but he’s made allowances for common sense and legal restrictions. He skipped some long stretches of desert out west, and members of the Patriot Guard helped him cross the Mississippi River bridge from Arkansas to Tennessee.

Even with help here and there, he’s on his second pair of shoes. He said the first pair, which he abandoned near Little Rock, were a sight to see.

People have given him Gatorade and water, as well as a Yeti tumbler to keep his drinks cold in the summer heat.

“Someone donated a folding stool, so I can take a break,” he said.

Donations can be made at gofundme.com/walkingveteran. To learn more about Hudson’s trek, visit www.walkingveteran.com, or search for “walking veteran” on Facebook.

He’s expected to continue east on Interstate 22 this morning. His goal is 20 miles a day, but he doesn’t always reach it.

“When people stop me, I’ve got to talk,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.”

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