Ron Zaleski: A Barefoot Journey Across America
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: