Ron Zaleski: A Barefoot Journey Across America
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.
To learn more about Ron’s journey and his efforts to support Veterans, you can purchase his book which is now available on Amazon:
The Long Walk Home, A Book By Ron Zaleski
WCCF Sunrise - Ron Zaleski Interview
Ron’s Latest Journals
Connect with Ron by reading his Journal entries. Raw, unfiltered, and sprinkled with quite a bit of humor.
I think the only power I have is what I feel about a situation. I can be joyful or scared or all the flavors in between and dictates the world I...
When I feel the need to attack someone, I have to ask myself, what am I not seeing, what am I afraid of and what am I supposed to learn from this? I...
I had judged others by observing their actions and wanted them punished, but when I did the same thing I wanted to be judged by intent and wanted...
When you understand that you are never alone, that is when you can have love without fear.
Guilt is a funny thing, no matter how much you try to atone for it, it never goes away, but when you realize you made a mistake, then it can be...
If you’re standing on the edge you’re taking up too much space; jump. How many great things were never done or seen because of fear and how many...