SEATTLE -- Two Army veterans walked from Kennewick to Seattle while carrying 80-pound rucksacks on their backs to raise awareness around the issues of returning soldiers.
The two veterans -- Stuart McKenzie, 31, of Kennewick, and Todd M. Hamilton, 35, of Chandler, Ariz. -- made the grueling walk -- 45 to 55 miles a day -- over six days to bring attention to the Shadow 6 Foundation, an organization Hamilton founded to advocate for returning veterans. McKenzie serves on the board of the group.
"Shadow" was the name of McKenzie's old sniper unit, and the saying, "I've got your six," is Army slang for '"I've got your back," which is where the name came from.
"That we're behind you, you know we're there," Hamilton told the Seattle Times.
The veterans ended their walk in downtown Seattle on Sunday. Both men walked despite pain from injuries suffered during their service.
McKenzie, an Iraq veteran, had hypothermia by the end, made worse by his poor circulation from an injury from an improvised explosive device, or IED, blast suffered in combat, and Hamilton was nursing a broken foot.
The Seattle Times reported Hamilton hopes to build a sanctuary in Ellensburg that features a working farm, classrooms, housing facilities and counseling services.
He said the suicide rate of returning veterans is too high and they need more support when they are back home.
The veterans met and became close friends in 2006 when they were receiving medical treatment for wounds sustained in combat.
"When you've got 18 guys eating their pistols each day, something's wrong," Hamilton said.