Best of America

Troy Yocum: Walking for War Vets

Troy Yocum: Walking for War Vets© 2011 Erika Larsen/Redux

Our hero: Troy Yocum, 31
Where he lives: Louisville, Kentucky
How he helps: Raising money for veterans

While serving in Iraq in 2009, Specialist Troy Yocum received several distressing e-mails. “My good friend, an Iraq War veteran, was hurting financially,” says Yocum. “I wanted to help, but I [felt] powerless.” The episode stuck with Yocum. When he returned home to Louisville, he ruminated about how to raise money for financially strapped vets and came up with Hike for Our Heroes. The 7,000-mile walk, also known as the Drum Hike because of the instrument he plays en route, kicked off in Louisville in April 2010 and is expected to end there this September. Yocum collects donations through his website and delivers checks to the doorsteps of needy military families. When his march wraps up, he will have trekked to 38 large cities in 30 states and touched down on all three coasts—in San Diego, New Orleans, and Boston.

“I thought, What better way to spread the word than literally going from town to town,” says Yocum. With the support of his wife, Mareike, and sponsors, including Merrell shoes, Yamaha, and Green Beans Coffee, Yocum has logged an average of 20 miles a day, sleeping in donated hotel rooms, host homes, and his tent. If all goes according to plan, by fall he will have given away several hundred thousand dollars. “Every step is worth it because when I arrive to help another family, it is the best feeling.”

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