Route for the Brave passes through Elk­ton on na­tion­wide walk

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IAN­NETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— Six days be­fore he was set to start on a 3,000-mile walk across the coun­try, Darin Fish­burn had an epiphany: he had been think­ing too small.

When Fish­burn, CEO of Help­ing Hands for Free­dom, and David Roth, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board chair, orig­i­nally drew up the plans for the Route for the Brave walk, they en­vi­sioned it as a way to raise $3.3 mil­lion to build a house of heal­ing for fam­i­lies of sol­diers killed in com­bat — called Gold Star fam­i­lies for the award they re­ceive.

But very few peo­ple, even those in the mil­i­tary know what a Gold Star fam­ily is and as he spoke at the Na­tional Gold Stars Wid­ows con­fer­ence that night in Ari­zona, Fish­burn re­al­ized he needed to look at the walk’s mis­sion dif­fer­ently.

“These fam­i­lies, they want to make sure their loved ones didn’t die in vain, that it wasn’t for naught,” he said. “That night I knew our mis­sion was just to ed­u­cate Amer­ica about what a Gold Star fam­ily was and if that touched enough hearts the by-prod­uct would be the (house of heal­ing).”

On Fri­day morn­ing, the walk­ers dipped their toes in the ocean be­fore set­ting out from At­lantic City, N.J., on their 3,091-mile jour­ney along Route 40 to San Fran­cisco. They ar­rived in Elk­ton on Satur­day night and af­ter rest­ing on

ELK­TON

Sun­day, left town at about 5 a.m. Mon­day on their way to Aberdeen.

But be­fore leav­ing the county, Fish­burn stopped at Elk­ton High School to briefly talk to stu­dents and re­ceive a do­na­tion of wa­ter and snacks as well as a check for $125. That money will go to­ward build­ing the house of heal­ing as well as a post-trau­matic stress dis- or­der treat­ment cen­ter. Though the over­all goal is $3.3 mil­lion, Fish­burn said he would be happy with just $1 mil­lion since he has al­ready talked to rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the United As­so­ci­a­tion who are will­ing to help with some of the con­struc­tion for free.

The house will have six liv­ing quar­ters for fam­i­lies to live in as they await their death ben­e­fits. The PTSD cen­ter will help re­turn­ing sol­diers by pro­vid­ing an­i­mal therapy and other forms of treat­ment, he said.

“We’re los­ing 22 sol­diers a day on U.S. soil (be­cause of sui­cide),” he said. “So that tells the story of com­ing home.”

Fish­burn isn’t one of the three full-time walk­ers mak­ing the jour­ney, but is trav­el­ing along the whole route to help co­or­di­nate lo­gis­tics and the team of peo­ple fol­low­ing the walk­ers in cars.

The three full-time walk­ers, who will at times be joined by fam­ily, friends and other vol­un­teers along the route, are Roth, Staff Sgt. Pa­trick Shan­non and Kevin Win­ton, an In­di­ana school teacher, Fish­burn said.

Though the trip is only a few days old, Fish­burn said the group has al­ready re­ceived a lot of help along the way. On Sun­day night, the walk­ers were rec­og­nized at the Philadel­phia Phillies game and were sim­i­larly rec­og­nized at the Wilm­ing­ton Blue Rocks base­ball game on Mon­day night. The Har­ford County Cham­ber of Com­merce also put them up in a ho­tel in Aberdeen on Mon­day night, he added.

The three walk­ers are plan­ning to travel at least 30 miles a day, six days a week with the goal of get­ting to San Fran­cisco on Aug. 26. Right now, the walk­ers are ahead of sched­ule, which is good be­cause Fish­burn an­tic­i­pates their pace will slow down as they hit the moun­tains far­ther west.

“It’s funny, you plan this out, but four months is a long time to make sure ev­ery­thing goes right,” he said with a laugh.

Those look­ing to fol­low the Route for the Brave’s jour­ney across the coun­try can like the “Route for the Brave” page on Face­book or check route­forthe­brave.org.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IAN­NETTA

Darin Fish­burn, CEO of Help­ing Hands for Free­dom, talks to Elk­ton High School stu­dents about Route for the Brave.

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