The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 18, 2013

Wounded Walk vets coming to Beckley

The story of two best friends heading out on a cross-country trip is not exactly something new. What if those two friends were former Marines? That’s a little different. What if they are raising money for a charity to help their former brothers and sisters in arms?  

This story sounds like the beginnings to a heart-warming buddy comedy, but it’s very real.

Chris Senopole and Adam Shatarsky are two best friends and former Marines who had an idea to go for a cross-country walk. Things took off from there and became “The Wounded Walk.”

“The walk began without the idea of The Wounded Walk,” Senopole said. “It started off as, ‘I wonder if we can do it?’ If you ever sit down with Adam and I for more than 30 minutes, it always comes up that we always want to challenge ourselves. I wondered if we could walk across America.

“Once that was on the table, it stuck in both of our heads and we said it would be kind of selfish and stupid of us not to raise awareness for something by doing the walk. First and foremost in our hearts was The Wounded Warrior Project because they’re a big name and they help our brothers and sisters who have been wounded in combat. It was a no-brainer to go straight to them.”

The Wounded Warrior Project is a charity that helps wounded veterans get some help in almost any part of their life.

“It assists with living expenses and things like that,” Senopole explained. “Sometimes they might build houses for wounded vets. They might help find jobs for wounded vets. It’s just a giant hub for individuals who have been wounded in combat to go to and say, ‘I need certain things.’”

Once the two men had a charity picked out, the walking started. The two say their trip took them “from California to Arizona, from Arizona to New Mexico, New Mexico to Oklahoma, then Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and then we just cut up from Tennessee to West Virginia.”

The most recent leg of the trip will start this morning in Flat Top and end in Beckley, which is about a 15-mile walk. Senopole says he wanted to hit his home town of Daniels and make sure they get the word out in Beckley, too.

“We encourage people to walk with us, just not for an extended time, of course,” Senopole said. “It’s extremely arduous on your body and it took us about two weeks to get used to everything.

The walks for each leg of the trip started off around 25 miles long. Once word got out about the two friends’ work to raise awareness and money for veterans, attention started pouring in.

“We’ve walked as much as we absolutely can though,” Senopole said. “Once we had national news coverage and got a huge following, we went from walking 25 miles a day to maybe 12 because we’re getting stopped so many times on the road. There were so many people and organizations that wanted to help us out or wanted us to come speak to their veterans, or their Boy Scouts, or people like that.”

Shatarsky says meeting so many interested and kind people has been the best thing about the trek.

“They’ve gone above and beyond to help us,” Shatarsky said. “There’s only two of us. There’s no support vehicles or anything. They’ve bent over backwards to make sure that we have water so that we can keep going, or food, or even a place to stay. I haven’t met one person on this trek who has had one cross thing to say. It’s been a fantastic experience.”

Shatarsky calls the experience “fantastic,” but it hasn’t gone by without a few bumps along the way.

“Walking the desert was the hardest because that was at the beginning of the trek and our feet and bodies weren’t accustomed to the constant beating they were taking, so it took a long time to kind of get used to that, almost two weeks,” Shatarsky said.

“I also got bit by a dog on the Pima Reservation in Arizona. For those of you who think that packs of wild dogs do not exist in America, I can assure you that they do. I got bit by one on a Pima Reservation. That kind of sucked. Other than the blisters and the random dog bite, it’s been a really pleasant experience.”

One thing the friends say they didn’t expect was the evolving of their Facebook page from a trip log to a complete forum.

“It’s no longer just, ‘Adam and Chris are walking,’” Shatarsky said. “Now it’s a forum for people to gather around and discuss similar stories and share their lives with each other. Everyone has one thing in common: the military, or they know someone who was in it. They can share their stories and just be a part of the community. The community that was created now has grown so much since we started and we never expected it to go this route, but now that it’s kind of shifted into this forum, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Chris Senopole and Adam Shatarsky will start walking from Flat Top around 8 a.m. and end in downtown Beckley. For more information about The Wounded Walk or to give a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/thewoundedwalk. For more information about The Wounded Warrior Project, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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