This first appeared in The Havok Journal on August 15, 2014.
At midnight of June 7th, 2014, Leo Jenkins and I set off on a fundraising trip for Gallant Few. It was an interesting way to go about raising money though; we started from Denver, Colorado with only a backpack and one hundred dollars each. The objective? To make it as far as possible in twenty-one days, with only those resources and any help we could beg for along the way. In addition to raising money for Gallant Few, we hoped to raise awareness for veteran’s transition issues. We hoped to show employers that veterans are resourceful and resilient. We hoped to show our fellow veterans that it’s ok to ask for and receive help when you need it. Finally, we wanted to show how expansive and powerful the veteran network is.
What was the result? We did straight-line distance for fundraising purposes, but the total distance traveled by #NomadicVeterans was 7,448 miles (give or take a bit) in twenty-one days, finishing at the Italian-Slovenian border. Modes of transportation included car, walking, running, rail (both legally and illegally), boat, and airplane. The final 24 hours of the trip consisted of a train ride and a twenty-four-mile foot movement on a cumulative 4 hours of sleep in the previous three days. We raised nearly 25,000 dollars and more importantly, raised an immeasurable amount of awareness for veterans in every city we hit. We had high points and low points of the trip, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We couldn’t have done it without the people who helped us along the way, and we are eternally grateful to them. From Leo and I both, this is “Thank You”…
Lauren Skovlund, my wife, and mother of my soon-to-be first-child, thank you for blessing off on this trip and being brave enough to let your husband take off as a homeless transient while you were seven months pregnant with our first child. You are an amazing woman, and I am lucky to have you.
Stephanie Skovlund, my sister, thank you for your advice and help in preparing for this trip to both Leo and I. You gave us insight to a world we knew little about, and you gave me confidence that we could do this and be successful.
Santiago Basulto from athlete.com, thank you for your help in making sure the technical aspect of the fundraiser went smoothly, and for going out of your way to make sure any glitches were fixed in a timely manner.
Kyle Fabra and the Fat Jacks Crew, thank you for hosting us on our launch day, thank you for the generous donation, thank you for the amazing sandwiches, and Kyle specifically – thank you for your guidance and advice on how to best go about this trip. I can say for certain our success had a lot to do with your advice.
Kilo Quebec, thank you for going out of your way to help us on the initial leg of our journey. You literally put your ass on the line for us when you absolutely didn’t have to. You went above and beyond for us, brother.
Austin, thank you for helping Leo pack. I don’t know if we would have gotten out of Kyle’s house that night if it weren’t for you. Iassen Donov, thank you for driving us and hanging out the night of the launch. Thank you to the Denver P.D. officer who didn’t arrest us for trespassing on a locomotive, and for not throwing us in jail only hours into our fundraiser. Thank you to CSM Lockler and the Denver Recruiting Battalion for helping us with logistics and helping us get out of a pretty tough spot.
Thank you to Joey T. for taking a chance and picking up a pair of dirty, bearded hitchhikers and pushing us a little further down the road. Thank you to the couple at McDonald’s in Bennett, CO who bought us breakfast, the food was amazing and very much needed after a very rough first few days. Thank you to Hobie Landreth, who drove us over four hours as well as hooked us up with some of the best fudge I have ever had. Thank you to Matt Sanders, who picked us up in the middle of nowhere and drove us a few hours, who bought us our first beer of the trip, gave us a great night in Kansas City, our first shower of the trip, first roof over our heads to grab a few hours of sleep, and some amazing barbecue before sending us on our way. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Sanders for buying us train tickets to St. Louis, it was our most comfortable mode of transportation of the trip up to that point.
Thank you to the Ladies in Salina, KS who believed our story when we couldn’t pay up, and even donated to our cause. Thank you to U.S. Army WTF Moments, and Mat Best and the Art 15 Crew for helping us with the first publicity of the trip. Thank you to Jeff Tejcak for going above and beyond to volunteer his time, talents, and connections to get us on the news in multiple cities, you made a huge impact in the donations we were able to collect. Thank you to Karl Monger and Gallant Few for being supportive of our idea, and for helping us with interviews and publicity along the way.
Thank you to Rep. Jeff Grisamore who met us on the train to St. Louis and went out of his way to hook us up with connections and publicity. Thank you to Justin Albers for picking us up, feeding us, giving us a place to sleep, and then taking the day off to drive us a bit farther down the road.
Thank you to Joe, the SOFREP fan that responded to one of our Facebook posts, and picked us up and drove us to Indianapolis. Thank you to the Ruffner family, who graciously hosted us at their home, fed us, and then woke up before dawn to drive us to a news interview, and then on to Columbus, Ohio. Thank you to Adam and Jessica, and the crew at Rogue Fitness for feeding us, putting us up in a hotel to sleep in our first bed of the trip, letting us participate in the Pancake Breakfast (which was one of the most memorable parts of the trip), and then taking time out of their busy schedule to drive us up to Canton, Ohio. Thank you to Patriot Pin Ups, Inc., and a big shout out to their mission, keep it up girls!
Thank you to Dr. Matt Voll and his amazing family. A roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, drinks in our glass, food in our stomach, and if that wasn’t enough – a rental car to get us to Pittsburgh! On top of that, a special thanks to Matt for his reassurance when my wife had to go into the Emergency Room. He gave me the down-low on what was going on and helped me rest easy knowing my wife and unborn daughter were going to be ok.
Thank you to Pete Huston and his family. We had some amazing food, heard some amazing 80’s era Ranger stories, and he even drove us across the state (a long freaking way!) to our next drop-off. Pete, you went way above and beyond brother! Thank you to Kerry Patton and his family for hosting us at their absolutely beautiful farmhouse, feeding us, and giving us a bed to sleep in. A special thanks to Kerry who went out of his way to hook us up with media both in Scranton as well as New York City, and drove us up to West Point, NY.
Thank you to Charles and Lilla Faint and their amazing family. They put us up, fed us, and even bought us train tickets to New York City! Thank you to Andrew Wilkow and his crew for having us on both the radio show and the tv show, and arranging a ride for us to the airport. Andrew also made a very generous donation to us live, on air, which put us in a much better position for our next leg of the trip in Europe. Thank you to Ian Scottish, who helped us out immensely both with the SOFREP interview as well as the Wilkow interview, and even walked us over to O’Lunney’s and put in a good word for us.
Emmett O’Lunney and his crew… were amazing! If you are ever in New York City, give this establishment your business! They took in two smelly, sweaty hobo’s and showed us the high life! He fed us, gave us desert, and I don’t think our drinks were ever within three inches of the bottom of the glass before another one was in front of us. Emmett, we will be back, you and your crew are amazing! While at O’Lunney’s, we met “the MTV guy” and his Marine buddy, Ranger Lou Presti, Ranger Jordan Whitlow, and a Ranger-turned-school principal who were a huge boost to our morale to meet, and a boost to our traveling funds which were an immense help in Europe – Thank you so much, guys! After O’Lunney’s, we were off to do David Webb’s show, and he and his crew showed us a great time! David treated us to an amazing meal after the show and even hooked us up with a ride to our hide site for the night.
Thank you to Jack Murphy and his family for putting us up for a few hours, despite us coming over in the middle of the night. Jack went out of his way both with helping us with media, but opening up his home. We might have been the worst houseguests he’s ever had, but we sure were thankful he didn’t kick us out on the street – there were ruffians about!
Thank you to Ted Lachowicz and his son-in-law for the good company, giving us a place to crash for a few hours, as well as donating to our travels and giving us a ride back downtown. Ted is a huge supporter of veterans, and we can’t thank him enough for all he does.
We were concerned that the hospitality might be in short supply once we made it to Europe, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. First off, thank you to the man who donated the plane tickets to Norway to us – we are eternally grateful and we couldn’t have made it across the ocean with out your donation! Thank you to Joakim Wreime, Andre Haugen, Johanne Foxhome, and Birthe Aarli for making our short stay in Bergen, Norway truly memorable. I know for a fact I will be back!
Thank you to Torsten Petersen, who picked us up at the docks in Copenhagen, and brought us to a festival where we were able to enjoy great company and Danish beer in the afternoon, and good work at the beer tent in the evening. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to do that, and you truly made Denmark a memorable stop for us. Thank you to the citizens of Humlebæk, Denmark in the Port of Sletten for being so hospitable to us while we worked their festival, taking an interest in what we were doing as well as donating to our travels. We were truly humbled by your generosity. Thank you to Ryan and Ellie P. for opening up your home to us, and giving us great company. We were so happy to bump into you at the festival!
Thank you to Doc Ryan for not only picking us up from the train station but giving us an amazing day/night in Germany! There is nothing like linking up with an old Ranger buddy in a foreign country and drinking and telling old stories! Also, A big thank you to Sarah Taylor and him for driving us to Stuttgart, Germany, helping us get a little farther down the road!
Thank you to Daniel from the German Army, who picked us up despite the Germany vs. USA soccer match being on, drove us through riots and all the way to Zurich! Also, a shout out to his Platoon Sergeant for letting him get away for a night to help us out! Thank you to the two guys from Italy who gave us a ride to Vicenza, it was great to talk with you and get to know more about the country we were traveling through.
From Vicenza on, it was absolutely rough for us, but a big thank you to the two English girls we met in Venice who provided great afternoon company as well as donated to our nearly depleted traveling funds. If you two ever make it to America, let us know!
Finally, thank you to everyone who donated online, and all the media who told our story along the way: Ranger Up’s The Rhino Den, Girls4Gunslingers.com, RTV6 in Indianapolis, Fox8 in Cleveland, WBNS 10TV in Columbus, OH, the Jay Thomas Show, the David Madeira Show, SOFREP Radio, Newsnet5 in Cleveland, KSHB Channel 41 in Kansas City, and ABC6 in Columbus, OH. You helped us get the word out about our travels, which was a true gift as it multiplied our efforts to draw attention to veteran’s transition issues.
I hope I didn’t forget anyone, but if I did you have my most sincere apologies! Without all of the people who helped us out along the way, we would have never made it out of Colorado. We left for this trip only two weeks after the initial idea to do it, so there was next to no planning done; without your kindness and generosity, that lack of planning would have been fatal to our mission.
Oh, and a personal thank you from me to Leo, for dropping what he was doing in South America and flying back up to the U.S. to accompany me on this trip. It truly is amazing what veterans can accomplish when they work together.
Marty Skovlund, Jr. is a veteran of the 1st Ranger Battalion and Syracuse Recruiting Battalion, a former small business owner, the author of Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror (Blackside Publishing) as well as Ranger Knowledge: The Complete Study Guide (St. Martins Press). He is also the executive producer of the award-winning documentary Nomadic Veterans, and the award winning short-narrative Prisoner of War. He is currently working on his third book as well as pursuing a career in film and television.