July 13, 2012 — Who was that guy Tuesday you saw walking along US 60 through Rowan County?
He’s Michael Weber and he’s walking from Huntington, W.Va. to Los Angeles to raise money for the March of Dimes, an organization that provides family support and education about premature births.
“Mike’s March” is the result of an encounter that the former U.S. Army staff sergeant had on his return to America after his second tour in Iraq.
“When I saw the baby in an incubator on my return flight I knew that I had to do something,” he recalled.
That “something” has become a 2,300-mile cross-country trek to raise awareness about babies born too soon, according to the website, www.mikesmarch.com.
Initially, Weber’s goal was to raise $1,000 but he soon decided that was too modest.
“I said, ‘Why not make it a million’?” Weber said.
He doesn’t know if he will obtain that goal, but said there’s no reason not to try for it.
After a grand sendoff by family and friends in Huntington, Weber began his westward sojourn, which will take him across 12 states.
Weber said he hopes to complete the walk in four months.
As he walked through Farmers, Randy Ferguson emerged from his home to give Weber a bottle of cold water. Ferguson encouraged the young veteran to journey on.
“That’s been my experience through Kentucky so far,” Weber said.
“People stop and pray for me, talk to me and encourage me to continue,” he said.
There’s another reason Weber is making the journey and a reason he’s doing it solo.
“I need time to focus, just me and God,” he said.
The young veteran said he’s had some recent painful experiences in his personal life and that he needed time, space and distance to get clarity.
All of those he will have in abundance on the way to health and healing for himself and for the babies and families for whom he’s walking.
“So what am I going to do when I get to Los Angeles if I’m not satisfied with where I am?” Weber asked.
He then answered his own question.
“I might buy a bicycle and bike back, and once I get back to West Virginia if I’m still not where I want to be I might get a pair of skates and skate back!”
Weber said people have regarded him as a hero, both for “Mike’s March” and for his service to country.
He said he doesn’t know about all that.
“I’m just an average man with more than average dreams. I don’t feel heroic at all,” Weber said.
He’s traveling light--- a pack on his back, a hat to ward off the sun and, of course, plenty of water. A small popup tent dangles from the backpack.
“It’s kind of dangerous out here,” Weber said as a car whizzed past him as he walked the along the shoulder.
Still, Weber said it’s worth the risk, both to get some peace of mind for himself, but more importantly, to help give pre-term babies a fighting chance.
“Some people never get a second chance in life, but then again, some people never get a first,” Weber said.
To learn more about premature births, donate in support of Mike’s March, or to follow his journey, go to his website of follow him on Twitter @MikesMarch.
Noelle Hunter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 784-4116.