Three retired Marines, one who is now a New Jersey police officer and two who are Philadelphia firefighters, are walking from the Liberty Bell to the Freedom Tower to support fallen Marines. They are calling the expedition, which they embarked on September 1, The Long Walk.
In advance of the walk, Andrew Einstein, Devon Richio, and Steven Walls set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds in honor of Corp. John Thornton, who was killed in action in 2005 in Iraq, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, a military working dog handler who was killed in action in 2011 in Afghanistan. “All of the money we raise will be split and donated to two causes, one being a donation to the The Dawgs Project in memory of Sgt Chris Diaz, and the other half going to an Art Scholarship in honor of LCpl J. Thornton,” the GoFundMe page explains. As of September 2, more than $8,000 had been donated.
At the same time, the former Marines are hoping to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which they all suffer from. The men have service dogs who help them cope with the challenges they’ve faced since returning from war. “Just because you have PTSD doesn’t mean you’re broken,” says Einstein in a CBS Philly video (scroll down to watch).
And by including their service dogs in the journey, they hope to show the world how much the animals help them. "[The dogs] allow us ... a sense of a normal life," Einstein told NJ.com. He claims his dog Gunner, a Labrador Retriever, saved his life, giving him a sense of responsibility and helping him with his emotions.
According the CBS Philly, the men and dogs will walk about 12 miles a day, staying overnight in fire houses along the route and arriving in New York City in time for the 9/11 anniversary. The starting and finish point has significance as well:
“[Our ancestors] fought for the Liberty Bell, for freedom," Einstein told NJ.com. "We fought for the Twin Towers."