IOWA, La (KPLC-TV) – An Iraq war veteran has taken more than 26 million steps and plans on walking 7,000 miles across America, in an effort to raise awareness and money for military families in need.
"The idea of helping families with the military has been inside me for a long time," said Troy Yocum, who walked from Sulphur to Iowa on Sunday.
Yocum said his mission to help military families began after he received an email from a fellow Iraq war vet and friend while he was overseas serving a few years back. Yocum's friend lost his job like millions of other Americans.
"He had a really hard time taking care of his family," said Yocum. "He reached out to me in this email, very depressed and suicidal and I thought 'I can't let this happened to my friend.'"
Yocum soon discovered through reaching out to charities that his military friend wasn't alone.
In fact, according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the unemployment rate among young vets is nearly double the national average.
"My family and friends thought I was a little crazy when I came up with this idea and a lot of my friends didn't think it was possible to do," said Yocum.
But in ten months, Yocum has taken more than 26 million steps.
With his wife and two dogs along for the journey, he's battled his share of injuries, including kidney stones and a foot infection that left him sidelined for 12 days.
"The toughest part of this journey has been the several injuries I've had and to try to always come back from them and make up time," said Yocum.
But Yocum keeps walking and he keeps his mission in focus.
"[To] raise funds, help families but also try to break down the barriers for employees to hire more veterans; finding ways to bring these suicide numbers down; finding ways to help these veterans and their families in ways we've never thought about before," said Yocum.
Yocum will walk from Iowa to Jennings on Monday.