EFFINGHAM — A former Marine Corps sergeant is walking across the United States to raise money and awareness to the plight of homeless veterans.
Michael Gmur, 33, of Lancaster, California, started walking on June 8 in Portland, Maine. He hopes to reach his destination at San Diego by the end of November.
Gmur made an overnight stop in Effingham Friday. He headed out toward Vandalia on Saturday morning.
The journey marks the first time Gmur has spearheaded an effort to raise awareness or money for a cause.
Gmur served in the Marine Corps from 2006 to 2010 as an electrical engineer. During that time, he was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months.
Gmur said homelessness is a cause that is close to his heart because his two brothers almost ended up homeless. Most recently he has lived in Los Angeles and said that the amount of homelessness in that city keeps expanding.
Gmur decided to do something.
Gmur was acting in L.A. and said he got tired of the grind. He wanted to do a long-distance walk. After trying out for a role and not getting it, Gmur decided it was time to hit the road.
Gmur said has had his fair share of staying in unusual places. He has spent the night on the side of the road, at fire departments and even at a jail.
While walking across the country can be lonely, Gmur keeps himself busy while he's walking whether its talking on the phone to friends and family, listening to music and speeches, or thinking about where he is traveling next and what he's going to eat.
However, Gmur isn't always alone.
"I have continued to meet wonderful people," he said.
While some of those people have given Gmur a lift, he said he has been faithful to his journey.
"I have had people pick me up from a place and drop me back off at that same place later on," he said. "I haven't skipped a single step."
The farthest Gmur said he has walked in a day is 46 miles, which took him 15 hours to complete. For the last month, he has been walking 30 to 35 miles per day.
Gmur is accompanied by a cart that he wheels behind him while he's walking down the highway. He has named it Bernadine. Gmur considers the cart to be his most valued piece of gear.
Being on the road has helped Gmur appreciate the little things that people sometimes take for granted.
"It's not that I didn't appreciate a bed and shower before," he said. "I feel like I don't need as much stuff now."
When he finishes his cross-country trek, Gmur plans to go back to acting and become a motivational speaker. But Gmur said he may do other walks in the future to raise money for other causes.
To donate, visit gofundme.com/Walk-for-homeless-vets.
Crystal Reed can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 131