Two veterans from North Texas, a former Marine sergeant and a former Army combat medic are walking from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to the coast of southern California to volunteer and visit veterans in hospitals, nursing homes and veteran organizations posts nationwide.
Sgt. Larry Hinkle, from the Sanger-based organization veterans’ Phase Line, recruited Spc. Jocelyn Cupido for the 2,640 mile trek, known as The Hump, which started at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville on April 3.
Musician Daniel Foster, who follows the same route with the team’s camper, performs gospel and country music for veterans at each stop.
“We just want to bring a smile to our brothers’ and sisters’ faces,” Hinkle said. “If there’s anything else that we can do as far as volunteering, cleaning up police stations or fire stations, we just want to give back to the men and women that serve us.”
For roughly 27 weeks, Hinkle and Cupido will walk about 20 miles per day through towns and along highways. Foster drives ahead in the team’s camper, schedules the next stop and contacts local media, then picks the walking duo up and brings them to the next stop.
Hinkle said both of them have had knee surgeries in the past, and the two have been training for about three and a half months.
“Adapt and overcome. That’s what we’re taught in the Marines and the Army,” Hinkle said. “There’s that little voice in the back of your head that kind of says ‘Hey, take it easy,’ and Jocelyn’s an Army combat medic, so she keeps me in check. Sometimes, my stubborn Marine foot wants to go a little fast, and she says ‘Hey!’”
Hinkle said he’d wanted to try some kind of outreach after leaving the Marines and finding himself in a monotonous day-to-day routine. The “Groundhog Day Loop,” he said, was consuming him.
He connected with WWII veteran R.V. Burgin, who lives in Lancaster, Texas. He said after they met, he wanted to bring the same positive experience to other veterans, and the idea of a cross-country walk became more solid.
“I knew that I could take that and share it with the country, instead of focusing on Dallas or Fort Worth,” Hinkle said. “This needs to be shared, and we wanted to do it nationwide. Then, The Hump was born.”
He asked Cupido, who he met through the softball team they both play for, to join the project.
“She’s been a firecracker from day one,” Hinkle said. “She’s a go-getter, she loves people, she’s got a heart the size of Texas, and I knew I had to have her on the team.”
He and Foster met while attending Liberty Christian School in Argyle and have been friends for years.
“His motto is ‘Music is for the soul, not the wallet,” Hinkle said. “What music can do, in my eyes, is better than any pill. It’s a magical thing. We get to experience that firsthand every other day or so.”
The group also visited the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 6. As of Wednesday, the group still was in North Carolina, walking along Interstate 74, 15 miles east of the South Carolina border.
For more information, visit www.phaseline.org.
RHIANNON SAEGERT can be reached at 940-566-6897 and via Twitter at @missmusetta.