Second annual Jack’s Walk of Honor taking place this week
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Jack VanPutten is putting another 100 miles on his combat boots.
VanPutten and his supporters are taking part in the second annual Jack’s Walk of Honor Honoring the Michigan National Guard and Veterans starting on Wednesday, June 7, through Saturday, June 10.
Last year, VanPutten walked from Camp Grayling to the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Traverse City, which is located on space the military shares with the Cherry Capital Airport and the U.S Coast Guard Air Station. He then walked back to Grayling.
This year, VanPutten is hitting the “Sunrise Side” of northern Michigan, and will walk from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center back to the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
“I just wanted to offer both sides of state an opportunity to donate,” VanPutten said.
VanPutten will start his journey to support military personnel, veterans, and their families at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 7. He plans to walk 25 to 32 miles to Atlanta, where he will stay in a cabin owned by friends of his family.
On the second day, VanPutten will walk from Atlanta to just east of Gaylord, where he will stay in a camper or a tent on state land. He plans to walk just 15 miles on this third day, which will put VanPutten at the Otsego State Park just south of Gaylord.
That will set VanPutten up to walk 22 miles to Camp Grayling, in recognition of campaigns highlighting veterans who die from suicides every day because they are not getting the proper health care and support.
“It’s 22 miles on the last day to honor the vets who take their lives every day,” VanPutten said. “We’re trying to get as many people as we can. It’s the least that we can do, and if we can get more of the community to support that, I think that would be awesome.”
VanPutten will be joined by his fiancée, Heather Meter, mother Katie Tinker and dad Dana Metheney, as well as other family, friends, and community members who want to join him on the walk.
“They’ll take turns walking and will just give me company,” VanPutten said.
VanPutten is raising money for the Michigan National Guard’s Family Readiness Fund.
Military personnel or their families, while their loved ones are deployed, can apply for financial help through the fund for mortgage or rent payments, utilities, car payments, car repairs, insurance and medical bills, and every request is reviewed on a case by case basis.
Funds will be specifically earmarked for the 1071st Maintenance Company, 745th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, and 1434th Engineer Company, which are all based out of Grayling. Funds will also support personnel and families from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
“I want to keep the money as local as possible,” VanPutten said.
VanPutten raised $5,700 last year from his first walk, which was held in September. He hopes to raise $10,000 this year.
VanPutten changed the dates for the walk, but discovered he was just as busy in the spring time. He plans to do the walk in September next year, which will give him more time to solicit donations and to promote the walk.
“It takes up a whole day in just one town,” VanPutten said. “It’s time-consuming trying to balance family life with all of this, but it’s fun and I enjoy it.”
Musical acts Dan Smith, of West Branch, and Whiskey Bound, from Big Rapids, will perform at Tinker’s Junction at a celebration after VanPutten concludes his walk at Camp Grayling at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
VanPutten said Whiskey Bound is committed to support Jack’s Walk of Honor for the long haul.
“When I contacted them last year, they did not hesitate one bit,” VanPutten said. “I want to include them every year, because they have been there from the start. They’ve wanted to help right off the bat.”
VanPutten purchased a new pair of combat boots for this year’s walk, but plans to lace up the ones he wore last year with new insoles.
“They’re already broke in so they will be little more comfortable, but I will be taking the new ones just in case,” he said.
People who want to make a donation can go to paypal.com/jackswalkofhonor or at gofundme.com/jackswalkofhonor.