Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Veteran reaffirms faith in Americans with Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser. 61-year-old finishes walking from Bemidji to St. Cloud earlier than planned

1 / 2
Jerry Meadows (left) stops to have his photograph taken with Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen. The 61-year-old Air Force veteran from Wahpeton, N.D., arrived Friday, April 5, in St. Cloud after leaving on foot March 14 from Bemidji to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. Submitted photo 2 / 2

Jerry Meadows made it on foot to St. Cloud from Bemidji—and he learned a few things along the way.

"I feel totally blessed, gracious and proud," Meadows said of his arduous and even dangerous journey south as cars, trucks and semis roared by him Monday along Highway 371 and Highway 10.

The 61-year-old disabled veteran arrived at about 4 a.m. Friday, April 5, in St. Cloud. He left on foot from Bemidji on March 14 to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

"I learned something about America, and this is the closest to a political statement that I'm going to make. We don't have to 'Make America Great Again,'" said Meadows, who referred to President Donald Trump's slogan. "We just have to relearn how to love what we have."

The Wounded Warrior Project is a national nonpartisan organization that connects, serves and empowers wounded veterans of the military actions after Sept. 11, 2001.

"I have never seen so much support," Meadows said. "People would drive by and honk, pull over—I probably had a hundred people—just to see if I was OK or if I needed a ride. They had no clue what I was doing."

Meadows and his wife began their epic journey from the Paul Bunyan Park in Bemidji on his birthday. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1260 in Bemidji sent them off, and they also had a police escort out of town.

"What did I learn is not what you see on TV. It's not brother fighting brother. I got pictures of highway patrolmen just coming out and giving us food that we didn't even need," said Williams, who said he was fine eating cold hot dogs the couple had in their motor vehicle.

Virginia Miller trailed her husband in a Jeep as he walked to St. Cloud, offering emotional and physical support to Meadows, who underwent a triple bypass. Meadows also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 10 cardiac stents and requires supplemental oxygen to live.

"I was totally screwed up physically before I even started," said Meadows, a 61-year-old Air Force veteran from Wahpeton, N.D.

Meadows said the route from Bemidji to St. Cloud through Brainerd was chosen because it was centrally located. The driving distance from Paul Bunyan Park in Bemidji to St. Cloud is about 150 miles, according to Google Maps.

"How am I feeling right now? I have no feet. ... My legs are blown," Meadows said by phone.

The Wounded Warrior Project connects wounded veterans, their families and caregivers to peers, programs and communities; provides free services related to mental and physical health and wellness; offers career and benefits counseling; and supports the severely injured for life.

The goal of Meadows and Miller was to raise $5,000. As of Friday afternoon, the couple raised $1,200, according to their donation webpage, which may not include direct donations from motorists who have come into contact with them.

"Would I do it again? If I don't raise $5,000, I'm literally considering walking back until I get it," Meadows said.

A Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the St. Cloud area planned to welcome Meadows with a reception once he had the chance to rest in a nearby motel after spending night after night sleeping in the Jeep as he made his way to Stearns County.

"We paid for the first night. I came down to pay for a second night. Then they realized who we were ... and they said, 'You know what? Don't even worry about it,'" Meadows said. "These are Americans. These are Americans."

How to donate

Those interested in donating to the Wounded Warrior Project can contact Jerry Meadows at 701-403-4993 or visit https://bit.ly/2XK9SBf.

Checks can also be made out to the nonprofit—write "Road Walker" in the check's memo section—and mailed to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kan. 66675-8516

For more information about the organization, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Frank Lee

Voted most likely in high school ... "not to be voted most likely for anything," my irreverent humor (and blatant disregard for the Oxford comma) is only surpassed by a flair for producing online videos to accompany unbiased articles about Crow Wing County about, say, how your taxes are being spent, by your elected officials, on issues or topics that matter to YOU.

Writing local feature stories about interesting people in the community, however, and watching and discussion movies are among my passions. ... Follow me on Twitter at either of these accounts: @DispatchFL (for news) or @BDfilmforum (for movies).

Our prize-winning, professional publication includes an official website and Facebook page. But if readers actually paid for "news you can use" -- by buying a copy of the print edition (or subscribing) -- we can afford to continue to impartially report real news.

Supporting local journalism with a subscription, or buy a copy at your local retail store, so our experienced, fact-checking journalists can do MORE investigative, watchdog and feature stories about YOUR community. (It's like that saying about quality: "You get what you pay for.")

"Most Americans think their local news media are doing well financially; few help to support it." -- Pew Research Center. "They’re getting their news primarily from TV and online sources. Where do TV and online sources get most of their news? Newspapers." -- MPR News

To help support LOCAL award-winning journalism, click here to sign up to receive a Dispatch digital subscription to our e-edition or to receive the printed paper at your door, or to get both.

(218) 855-5863