A Veteran-Owned Nonprofit

About Us

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Vision Statement

That all military personnel and their families receive the support they need for the transition from military service to civilian life and that civilians are engaged, compassionate and supportive of service men and women during this transition.

Mission Statement

To help Veterans make the transition from military to civilian life.

Belief System

We believe it is up to all of us, not just the Veterans and their families, to aid in the process of integrating into society. It is our duty to assist our soldiers in their next greatest mission; to protect and serve their family and community.

 

Ron Zaleski:
A Barefoot Journey Across America

Ron's Journey

Ron Zaleski was born on November 11th, 1950 in Southampton, NY and attended Hampton Bays High School. At 19 years of age he joined the United State Marine Corps, serving in the Vietnam era from 1970 to 1972. When Ron Zaleski returned home from the military, he learned that two members of his squadron had been shot and killed in combat, the other three injured. He was hit by a wave of emotions: anger, guilt, shame, the list went on. After hearing the news, Ron vowed to stop wearing shoes in 1972 as a memorial to his fallen brothers, and to protest against the horrors of war. Ron still walks barefoot to this day.

Ron would go on to own both a scuba shop and gym, but the anger and guilt he felt still lingered. In 2006, he sold his businesses and founded the Long Walk Home. The same year, he set out to walk barefoot across the Appalachian Trail. He traversed 2,200 of woods and wildlife, learning self-forgiveness, empathy and finding a purpose greater than himself, all the while without shoes. He was met by many curious trailblazers who were eager to hear his story. Many of them were on their own journey of self-discovery. Others were Veterans, or had Veterans in their family, and related to Ron’s experience. However, they all had one thing in common: they were in awe of Ron’s bare feet. The Appalachian taught Ron that he wasn’t the only Veteran who felt lost, aimless, and isolated.

While his journey along the Appalachian Trail was in part an effort to create awareness for Veterans experiencing PTSD, Ron admits that he did it primarily for himself, to find peace. Having found that peace, Ron set his sights on a new mission. In 2010, he upped the stakes and walked barefoot from Concord, MA to Santa Monica, CA. He traversed over 3,400 miles without shoes, carrying a sign that read “18 Vets a Day Commit Suicide!” and a petition for military personnel to receive mandatory counseling. In 2011 he brought that same petition, which had at that point accumulated over 20,000 signatures, to Washington D.C. There, he spoke to politicians and pleaded his case on behalf of Veterans. While his calls for reform largely seemed to fall on deaf ears, Ron refused to bow out.

For over a decade, Ron has worked tirelessly to build The Long Walk Home from the ground up. He lives in Venice, FL developing programs, events, and services to extend to Veterans and their families on the local and national level. The Long Walk Home is ever-growing in its mission to bring awareness to and, more importantly, prevent Veteran suicide. Without Ron, the organization would not be where it is today.

Our Volunteers

We appreciate you!

Curtis Dennis
Ashley Ruskavich
Duane Stamm Sr.
Caryn Troxell
Duane Stamm
Jessica Rouse
Chris Cosa
David Galperin
Scott Schroeder
Mason Gravely
Jordon Wolfram
Tara Augustine
Toni Hedstrom
Page Dame
Rick Ayers
Joseph Reynolds
Todd Bandiagara
Sean McMahon
Darlene Stamm
Chelsea Crowley
Diane Schwartz
Kevin Rouse
Robert Taylor
Brian Flaherty
Dusty Star
Chris Frazier
Cpl Tyler Lewis
Sean Stephens
Jake McFadden
Gina Hogue
Barry Gray
Carol Herdock
Kermit Jones
Roberta Ruxton
Mark Beaucom
Selena Stamm
Alex White
Cristina Ruskavich
Audrina Ennis
John Vitale
Chris Jon Butler
Mr. & Mrs. Larry Beyers
LCpl Ashley Beckers
Jevaris Kirkland
Scott Holdsworth
Dona Anello
William Hunnel
Kathleen Heath
Nancy Gazo
Brian Feasler
Gillian Beck
Heath Fleener
AJ Schepp
Nikki Barnes
Killian Family
Babs Vitale
Gill Christopher
Jason Hanson
PFC Kevyn Valladolidpillco
Vicki Duma
Marina Fleener
Laila Anello
Rose Parker
Seth Hensel
James Lang
Natalia Godina
Tracie Spooner
Get Involved

Be the Change You Want to See

The 10 Challenges to Service are supported by our passionate network of Mentors. The Long Walk Home is always looking for candidates to join our team and help Veterans and their family members embark on their self-empowerment journey.

Board Of Directors

Through our programs and events, The Long Walk Home has helped thousands of Veterans and military families overcome difficult circumstances and find their purpose. Here’s what they have to say.

Nick Pultorak

Board Chairman

Nick Pultorak was born and raised in southwest Detroit, literally on its border with Dearborn Heights and Dearborn. His parents, first-generation Eastern Europeans, emphasized hard work, studying, and honesty as the means to obtain the American Dream. Despite growing up in an urban environment, Nick developed an appreciation for the Northwoods through annual fishing trips to northern Michigan and Canada with his father. His journey in the Boy Scouts took him to the rank of Life Scout, just one step below Eagle, before he left the program at the age of 16 to focus on driving and his academic pursuits.

Nick’s educational path led him through Catholic schools from grade school to high school, where he excelled academically. His achievements secured him partial scholarships to an elite all-boys Catholic high school and, as a recipient of the National Merit Semifinalist distinction, to Michigan State University. There, he eventually decided to major in Employee/Labor Relations and performed exceptionally well in core subjects such as economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. His analytical mindset thrived in these thought-provoking classes, allowing him to develop critical thinking skills.

Financial challenges led Nick to temporarily halt his college education. To overcome this obstacle, he made the pivotal decision to join the Army, driven by the allure of college benefits. While he initially anticipated serving only the four years required to obtain these benefits, he found military service so fulfilling that he chose to remain. Nick’s exceptional scores on entrance exams enabled him to select any Military Occupational Specialty, but he surprised recruiters by insisting on joining the airborne infantry, seeking the challenge of becoming an elite soldier.

After four years in the 82nd Airborne Division, Nick reevaluated his career aspirations and embarked on a highly successful journey in Special Forces. In the aftermath of 9/11, his expertise in counterterrorism led to his selection for a pioneering unit responsible for formulating the Department of Defense’s initial strategy against terrorism. His impressive achievements earned him positions of increasing responsibility, ultimately culminating in his role as the Senior Enlisted Advisor for a three-star general at USSOCOM. In 2006, due to spinal injuries incurred during nearly 24 years of service, Nick medically retired from the military. Although he underwent several surgeries and experienced some paresthesia and neuropathy, he regained significant function, earning a VA rating of 100% Permanent and Total Disability, with a 70% Combat Related Service-Connected disability.

Post-military service, Nick initially worked with a defense contractor but transitioned to a role as an Air Force Civilian Intelligence Planner within six months. His position later evolved into that of a DIA civilian intelligence officer, where he earned accolades including outstanding performance ratings, bonuses, and the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation (NIMUC) for his contributions to addressing the Syria Chemical Weapons issue. Trained in Red Teaming at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, Nick supported the USSOCOM Chief of Staff’s Red Team, providing critical insights into compartmented Military Deception Programs.

Nick also played a pivotal role in the fight against Islamic State, assuming the position of lead Intelligence Planner. His contributions extended to crafting one of the first Global Campaign Plans, the GCP-V. Previously serving as the Deputy Chief of Plans for Intelligence, he now holds the position of the senior Joint Intelligence Planner for USSOCOM’s clandestine support to counter Iran and serves as the J2’s Irregular Warfare Intelligence Subject Matter Expert.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Nick remained actively engaged in his local church, serving as a lector, presenter, and witness/guide in The Road to Emmaus Retreats until the program’s discontinuation in 2018. He also volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America as an Assistant Scoutmaster and with the Black Dagger Military Hunt Club, an organization dedicated to providing adaptive shooting sports, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities to disabled veterans facing more severe challenges than his own.

Sean McMahon

Vice President

Sean is a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, LCpl, from 1992-1996. He enjoys volunteering for TLWH because it gives him a direct way to give back to veterans who are not as fortunate as him. Sean has spent the last 20 years working in the electric utility industry. He has spent the majority of that time in the field as a Journeyman Substation Electrician. In this time he has worked 6 hurricanes and multiple large storms to ensure electric service for customers throughout Florida. Sean loves fishing and running with his dog Summer who just turned two. He also enjoys participating in mud-runs, BBQing, and his favorite sports are football and hockey. Sean established our Annual Independence Day Salute To Our Veteran’s BBQ which was free to all military in Islamorada, FL.

 

Eric Konovalov

Secretary

Eric Konovalov is an immigrant, refugee, who’s family fled communist Russia in the early 90’s, when he was ten years old. Growing up in Baltimore, MD, Eric found his appreciation for the United States and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1999 as an Aviation Operations Specialist and a Russian Linguist.

During Eric’s military career he had the honor to serve in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also supported Joint Task Force Operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After an eight-year career with the marines, Eric decided to focus on building his family and a new career. He received his degree in Business Administration from University of MD and then went on to lead a sales team for Xerox in the Baltimore area.

In 2012, Eric Joined DCA Imaging Systems as their Director of Sales and helped the company grow their revenues.

To grow himself as a leader, Eric became a certified leadership trainer and coach through the John Maxwell Team. In 2015 he founded his own Executive Coaching and Sales Training company, The Goal Guide, Inc.

In 2020, Eric, his wife Julia, and their two boys, Max and Mikey, made the move from Maryland to Bradenton, FL.

Today, Eric continues to operate the Goal Guide. He is the author of B2B Sales Secrets and the host of Lead Sell Grow – The Human Experience Podcast. He travels the country and speaks at conferences on the topics of mindset, leadership, and sales. He also enjoys coaching executives to help them grow their businesses and develop their leadership abilities.

Eric and his family love to spend their time discovering all the amazing things Florida has to offer and helping the veteran community whenever there is a chance.

Jory Berkwits

Board Member

Jory is a retired Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President. During his career he had an opportunity to manage three of Merrill’s different branch offices as well as one of its top high net worth teams. Along the way, was recognized for outstanding performance by Barron’s, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, and the National Consumer Research Bureau.

Jory has always been involved in a variety of outside pursuits. He served on the Board of the Boston-based May Institute for twelve years, including three as Board Chair. The May is a $100 million non-profit serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, and it is best noted for its expertise in autism.

In 2015, Jory moved from New England to Sarasota. Once landing on the Suncoast, he joined SCORE as a mentor, where he serves as a consultant to small business owners. Beyond that, he also wrote and published three books, including the award winning Death of the Dinosaur.

Jory holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Washington. He currently lives in University Park with his wife, Kandy.

Jackie Killian

Board Member

Jackie is a mom, wife, dog-mom, Veteran, REALTOR®, and sweet tea lover. She loves helping others achieve their goals and as a real estate agent she is able to do that by helping them “find home.” Veteran homeownership is a passion of hers and she is a dedicated advocate for those who have earned the VA home loan benefit. Jackie grew up in Utah before joining the Air Force. After 11 years, marriage, two kids, and several lifechanging events, she needed something different and decided to separate from the military. She went on to work as a DOD Civilian for 8 years. Between her time as active duty and as a Civilian she went TDY a lot and discovered her love for traveling.

Hating the snowy winters of Utah, Jackie and her husband James decided to make the early retirement move to southwest Florida. However, she is unable to completely let go of the mountains and makes her family go back every summer to go camping. She enjoys fishing for anything but catfish, napping, and reading everything from murder mysteries to cheesy romance books. Jackie has a bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and was fortunate enough to be selected as a Civilian to attend the Air Command and Staff College, where she received her master’s degree. Her degrees have absolutely nothing to do with her current chosen profession of real estate agent. She is a certified real estate mentor and finds tremendous joy in helping newer agents get their business on track. She also enjoys volunteering with her family in the local community.

Sam Lambert

Board Member

Sam served in the United States Army as a Combat Engineer with the 555th Engineer Brigade. After completing his active-duty service, he attended the University of South Carolina, Columbia, where he graduated with degrees in History and Criminal Justice and Criminology. After completing his degrees Sam moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he became the Chief of Staff for a non-profit organization, The Independence Fund. With a thirst for adventure and a legacy in aviation, Sam decided becoming a pilot was his true calling. The excitement of traveling and meeting individuals from all walks of life solidified his passion and desire to take to the skies. The connections and experiences he has obtained from serving his country, giving back to his fellow veterans through non-profit and the joy of helping others has become a staple in his life and seeks to continue that pursuit.

Heath Fleener

Board Member

Heath served in the Law Enforcement field for over 15 years before retiring. During his career he held the rank of Sergeant and was assigned to the Investigations for the Ludlow Police Department and oversaw the Firearms Training Unit for the Ludlow and Fisher Police Departments. He has also held many Sales Manager and Training Team Leader positions for Law Enforcement and Military equipment manufacturers as a consultant. Heath also served as a soldier in the United States Army from 1991- 1996 as an E-4. His initial MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 29N Telephone and Switchboard Repair, which he performed for a year before assuming the role of Unit Armorer. Heath has continued a life of service by serving non-profits related to PTSD awareness and suicide prevention among Veterans and First Responders. He has sat on the Board of Directors for three organizations. He currently serves as an Outreach Coordinator for The Long Walk Home, a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to preventing suicide and helping Veterans transition from Military to civilian life.

During his career in Law Enforcement, Heath has held various positions and assignments including Patrol Officer, Investigator, Narcotics Investigator, and Firearms Instructor for the North End Specialized Enforcement Team (N.E.S.ET.) While serving in the Military and Law Enforcement fields, he has attended numerous training curriculums pertaining to Small Unit Tactics, Active Shooter Response, Interrogation Techniques, Control Tactics, Investigation Techniques, Narcotics, Crisis Intervention, Human Nature Studies, and Firearms Instruction.

Heath has spent countless hours studying various types of Women’s Self Defense Tactics, and started developing his own curriculum 25 years ago. He began by teaching Women’s Self Defense Tactics to the wives and girlfriends of his fellow Unit members. From there, he taught them the self defense techniques they would need to shoot firearms safely and proficiently for home and self defense. Over the last 25 years, Heath has taught hundreds of women various tactics ranging from home defense preparation to advanced handgun and shotgun techniques.

To this day, Heath is dedicated to empowering his community and the fellow Servicemen and Servicewomen who have put their lives on the line. He loves this country and believes deeply in the core values and principles that it stands for.

William Vanderstine

Board Member

Bill Vanderstine was enlisted to the Coast Guard in 1970. He served as a boatswain’s mate on the USCGC Mariposa, an Iris-class buoy tender vessel that patrolled the Thames River in New London, CT. He worked in search and rescue as well as aids to navigation. Today, he has continued living a life of service to others, working as a clinical therapist in Florida.

Bill met Ron Zaleski, founder of The Long Walk Home, in the 80’s at a gym that Ron owned at the time. They reconnected in 2019 and since then, Bill has been a huge help to The Long Walk Home. He has assisted the organization as both a Mentor and volunteer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Read about the latest news and developments from The Long Walk Home.

Knowing you are helping to save Veterans lives by funding our Suicide Intervention workshops and our Mentorship Program. You will get a free car magnet to show your support. Members of The Long Walk Home Campaign 17 will also be included in an annual report on Zoom from our Founder, Ron Zaleski.

Ron Zaleski founded The Long Walk Home in 2006. He walked across the country BAREFOOT from Massachusetts to Southern California wearing a sandwich sign to spread awareness of the 22 Veterans that suicide every day. Learn more about his journey by clicking below.

If you would like to become a volunteer either online or in-person please fill out the Volunteer application. Click below

If you would like to host an event with The Long Walk Home please fill out our Host An Event form by clicking below.

Yes, if you’re a veteran, you may qualify for financial aid. Requirements are: DD-214, last bank statement, contact info for whom the money is owed and taking our 4 Challenges. Contact Ron Zaleski 305-399-5354, ron@thelongwalkhome.org

The Long Walk Home’s mentorship program is open to all Veterans, Family Members, and Supporters. To learn more about how you can become a mentor click below.

If you would like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities for The Long Walk Home please fill out our Sponsorship Form by clicking below.

The Long Walk Home, A Book By Ron Zaleski