Gulf War veteran begins 150-mile walk across state

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2001

DESERT STORM VETERAN Robert Thomas carries an American flag as he walks east on the side of the westbound lane of I-20 Friday. Thomas’ freedom walk, from the state welcome center in Vicksburg to the Alabama state line, will raise money for the Armed Forces Emergency Services Fund of the American Red Cross.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[10/27/01]Ex-Gulf War Marine Robert Thomas thought it was just time to do it.

Friday morning, he began his Walk across Mississippi, a campaign to help raise money for the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services Fund.

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“This is something I’ve wanted to do for about the past two years,” said Thomas, of Brandon, as he paused briefly beside the westbound lanes of Interstate 20 just east of Edwards. “It just got to the point that I had to do it.”

The main purpose is to raise awareness and public support for military people and their families during Operation Enduring Freedom, which is the name given to the present military operation in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

He began his walk at the Mississippi River at the State Welcome center at 8 a.m. Friday and by mid afternoon he had walked about 20 miles.

Although he had wanted to make the approximately 150-mile walk across the state from the Mississippi River to the Alabama line east of Meridian for some time, it was only in the last couple of days that he’s put his fund-raising hike together.

“I told the Red Cross lady (in Jackson) my idea” Wednesday, he said.

With her help, Thomas put the walk together in a short period of time.

He said he originally planned to walk 24 hours a day, but his experience Friday may have changed his mind.

“I started to look at all this stuff that’s fallen off” trucks and other vehicles, he said, about the objects he’s passed along the roadway. “You can’t see that stuff at night.”

As a result, he hopes to make about 25 to 30 miles a day instead of the 35 to 40 miles he originally planned. Even so, Thomas hopes to reach Alabama sometime Monday.

Thomas served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. While in the Mid East, he repaired and maintained combat and transport helicopters. He works for Medinet Systems, a firm that supplies computer terminals and computer kiosks for use by patients in hospitals. Two of their customers in Mississippi are Mississippi Baptist Medical Center and River Oaks Hospital in Jackson.

He said pledges or donations can be sent to the Central Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross at 875 Riverside Drive, Jackson, 39202.