2017 / By Kurt J. Kolka
GRAYLING – Once a year, Jack VanPutten takes a walk.
It's a 100 mile walk. And it's to help others.
For the second year in a row, Jack VanPutten, a Grayling native, will be walking to support veterans, especially those who have lost all hope.
The Department of Veteran Affairs said in an article published in July 2016, an estimated 20 veterans commit suicide every day. That is 18 percent of all suicides in the United States. More post 9-11 veterans have considered committing suicide than previous age groups.
These facts bothered Jack who comes from a family of veterans and military personnel.
“I've had my own depression issues in the past, so I don't take suicide lightly,” says Jack.
Last year he borrowed an idea from singer Granger Smith to walk for veterans and raise money to help them out. Jack's goal had been $5,000, but he didn't think he'd make it. He started the walk with less than $300. To his surprise, by the end of the walk, he surpassed the goal, collecting $5,700.
His goal this year is to collect $10,000. The money will be split evenly between five local readiness groups in Grayling and Alpena.
Jack will be walking for four days, averaging 25 miles each day. That translates into about eight hours of walking on each day. His journey will start Wednesday, June 7 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. From there he'll take M-32 into Gaylord and then turn south onto Old U.S. 27. When he reaches Grayling on Saturday, June 10, he'll walk down M-72 and then take M-93 to the entrance of Camp Grayling.
Jack is hoping to have a group of people walk with him on his final day to show support for area veterans. He will start at the corner of Old U.S. 27 and Old State Road near Waters.
Afterward, a celebration will be held at Tinker's Junction featuring several bands. A silent auction will also be held to raise more money.
“Even though I had my mom and my fiancee [in a vehicle] on the journey last year, all that walking gives you time to think. In these last two years, we've seen huge cuts from the military budget and heard complaints about the V.A. clinics and how veterans aren't being taken care of. I wanted to be able to change the world, more or less. And that starts with one person.
“My five-year goal is to create is to create a non-profit,” says Jack. “I'd to be able to take veterans on weekend fun trips.”
Anyone can contribute to Jack's cause by going to www.gofundme.com/jackswalkofhonor or www.paypal.me/jackswalkofhonor.