Man walking across America to raise money, awareness for veterans

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
It took pedestrian Jake Sansing six days to make it to Lebanon on foot after he started his “Jake Walks America” journey out of Newport on April 9.
Sansing, who hails from a small town in Tennessee, is determined to raise money to open a free campground in Oregon for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder by walking across the United States. That may sound like quite an accomplishment, but he’s already done it five times since 2013.
Part of his mission includes selling copies of his 339-page book, “Walking America: A 10,000 Mile Journey of Self-Healing,” for $25. Therein readers can find details about how, after being discharged from the Army, he developed from a business owner who consumed a 12-pack of beer every day to a wanderer who found healing from his own PTSD.

A SIGN advertises his mission as Sansing enters Lebanon across from Yuvi’s Mart.

The now 34-year-old was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., and served two tours in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2011. Afterward, he lived in Tennessee for a year until, he said, fate stepped in. Somewhere between a bad breakup with his girlfriend and a tornado, he lost his business and his car.
So he started walking.
Granted, he was going from town to town to find employment, but what he found instead was the curative work of being afoot. Between towns he walked on train tracks that took him away from the population and into the woods.
“It was super peaceful out there and I was camping every night,” Sansing said. “I was slowly starting to feel better.”
Being away from crowds and loud noises, and finding “good people” along the way, helped reduce his anxiety and helped curb his need to drink. Sansing said he didn’t really know he had PTSD because his intoxication masked the fact. But without the opportunity to drink, he found fate had put him on a better path.
“It was kind of like it was forced upon me,” he said, “like fate was [saying], ‘You’re doing it wrong. We’re going to set you on this path that you’re supposed to be on.”
So Sansing just kept walking, picking up odd jobs here and there. He sometimes used his journey to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, Shot@Life and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but as motivation began to wane, he decided to continue for a more personalized purpose: to build a campground for veterans with PTSD that offers outdoor activities such as ax throwing, archery, wood working, fishing and a slingshot course.
“That’s the kind of stuff that helped me, so I feel like I’m not the only person it would help,” he said.

Jake Sansing swaps stories with Scott McKee at McDonald’s in Sweet Home, while selling copies of his book, “Walking America: A 10,000 Mile Journey of Self-Healing.”

Logging about three to five miles an hour, Sansing expects it will take him one to two years to complete his roughly 4,700-mile mission, traveling to Idaho and down through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico to Texas, then along the south and up to Maine.
In his down time, he catches up on his social media and video posts, signs copies of his book and rearranges his gear in a covered wagon cart, which packs everything he needs to survive, including cooking supplies, fishing and hunting tools, bear spray, clothes, sleeping gear, a solar charger and a slingshot.
By now he knows exactly what he needs to survive. Sansing has gone through “quite a few” tornadoes, blizzards and dust storms.
He’s experienced heat stroke couple of times, been charged by a grizzly bear, dealt with “quite a few” black bears and mountain lions, and found himself on the wrong end of a gun. Not to mention he’s also been in a couple of fights because he looked like a derelict.
But with his new cart and sign, Sansing feels people look at him differently now. He certainly gets more attention, and people regularly stop to give him food and supplies that, honestly, he usually doesn’t need or have space for, he said.

Jake stands outside the Cascades City Center Motel where he treated himself to a good night’s rest after walking from Albany to Lebanon.

Though he realizes the attention comes with the territory, Sansing finds he prefers the more anonymous method.
“It was really in the raw form, you know?,” he said. “It was nice. I like it, actually. I kind of miss that.”
Due to inclement weather and a potential illness, Sansing spent four days in Sweet Home and resumed his journey on April 22.
To buy his book or make a donation for the campground, visit JakeWalksAmerica.com. Follow him on his social media platforms at Facebook.com/jakewalksamerica, Instagram.com/jakewalksamerica, and Patreon.com/jake_walks_america.