While serving in Iraq two years ago, Troy Yocum used his spare time to devise an epic plan. Concerned for a friend and fellow veteran who had lost his job, Yocum decided to raise money for veterans who returned home to find themselves jobless and in debt.
He decided he would walk 7,000 miles across America, joined by his wife and dog. He would beat a drum as he walked, as a symbolic way to draw attention to veterans’ needs and raise $10 million for them and their families.
Now, he has traveled from Kentucky to California, and is winding his way back east. Yocum, 31, sounds energetic despite the rigors of his Drum Hike, as he’s dubbed the adventure.
He explains that he uses many of the skills he acquired in the Army to help him survive walking day after day for a year and a half, a trek that has even caused him to lose his toenails due to the stress.
He likes to be on the road by 8 a.m. so he can achieve his 20-mile-a-day goal. Depending on the weather, he takes small breaks and drinks water accordingly.
When he and his wife, Marieke, and pooch, Emmie, need a break from the RV, they stay in donated motel rooms or in the homes of strangers who volunteer to house them for a night.
Even with his training, the journey has been a test of his mental and physical endurance. He’s lost 20 pounds, dropping from 240 pounds to his current weight of 220 pounds.
He’s been hit by rocks kicked up by trucks, one leaving him with a nasty five-inch-wide bruise. A copperhead snake missed biting him by half an inch. A gang of ravenous swans stole his lunch sandwiches.
But the sacrifices lead up to the moment when he is able to hand donations to soldiers.
"This is what we wanted to do, literally hand out donations while we walked across America," Yocum said.
While in Mason, he was joined by Mayor Brent Hinckley and Kristi Nunez of the Mason County Chamber of Commerce at the Mason Veterans' Memorial on the courthouse lawn. Mayor Hinckley signed his name to an unusual petition on a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, endorsing the need to raise awareness of conditions for returning veterans.
Anyone who wishes to support Drum Hike can go to their website, www.drumhike.com , and make a donation.