Army veteran Kevin Wilson is on a journey to become the first person to complete the National 9/11 Memorial Trail—with service dog Calvin.
Arriving in Duncansville on Friday afternoon, the Arizona resident is on the final leg of his trip to the World Trade Center in New York.
His journey began on August 24 when he flew to Washington, D.C., from his home in Arizona and was flown to the Pentagon by Warrior Expeditions, an organization that provides veterans with the supplies they need to complete their long outdoor trek.
Warrior Expeditions campaigns consist of three programs: Warrior Bike, Warrior Paddle, and Warrior Hike.
Wilson joined Warrior Hike after his medical discharge from the Army, after six years of service and two tours in Iraq.
Walking 12 to 25 miles a day, Wilson expects to finish the trail by the end of November.
“My wife is pregnant. We are expecting a baby girl and she said I better do it now because I won’t do it later,” It is due in December, Wilson said, adding that it is due in December.
As the first to walk the entire path, Wilson said part of his job is to create good community relationships for those who come after him.
“I was told it would be unknown, and it has been a great experience so far,” Wilson said. “This is the first time I’ve seen any of the memorials, it’s a very humbling experience.”
He said he camped in front of the Shanksville Fire Department and met some of the first responders there that day, as well as family members of the Flight 93 victims.
“It’s heartbreaking to see what all these families have had to go through,” He said.
Wilson, who was in high school during 9/11, said it meant a lot to him to experience these things and even had a Facebook page set up to document his journey. He hopes this will not only raise awareness of the path but encourage other veterans to try Warrior Expeditions.
After he is medically discharged from the army, Wilson walks the road with a visual impairment. While he was not completely blind, he said he had no peripheral vision and could only see right in front of him.
He said that his “eyes are fine” But his occipital nerves are dying. This is where Calvin comes in.
“He’s a determined wounded warrior and has a great support dog, Calvin, who even with some visual impairment makes this trip alone with his dog and walks this whole way,” Jane Sheffield, CEO of Allegheny Ridge Corp. Member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for the National September 11 Memorial Track. “He does an excellent job of telling stories on Facebook to help others remember 9/11 and keep them alive.”
Wilson said the community support along the track has been amazing, with people buying Calvin’s dog food and putting the couple in hotels and businesses to encourage them to stop for a meal and refill their water bottles.
“His efforts in bringing attention to those military veterans who move on after their service are not commendable,” Discover Altoona CEO Mark Ekes.
Once in Duncansville, Ickes, Sheffield, and Mayor Eric Fritz treated Wilson to a meal at Marzonii’s. Ecks said Wilson was also given a bed at the Comfort Inn.
However, the flight was not without hiccups. While walking from Johnstown to Portage, Wilson fell into a bend in his assigned path due to construction work, according to a post on his Facebook page, Calvin’s Chronicle.
“This detour took me down a road I wasn’t supposed to go, as a parker, and for the first time in a long time I saw the bright red and blue lights,” Wilson Books.
Police spoke to Wilson, saying they have received calls for social screening from people who saw him walking along a detour and possibly endangering what they believe to be a baby in a stroller.
It was Calvin, however, being pushed into a covered wagon provided by Warrior Expeditions.
“I thought it was silly,” Wilson laughed.
Rachel Faure, Mirror Staff writer at 814-946-7458.