Carl Wentworth Is Walking From Boston to Los Angeles
He’s like a real-life Forrest Gump. Except rather than run across the country, Carl Wentworth is pushing a small cart full of his belongings from Boston to Los Angeles to honor members of the American military.
On Friday, he was in Philadelphia, taking a break from his daily trek.
“I’m going to walk until my feet fall off, or until I reach the Pacific Ocean,” said Wentworth. “I’m going to get there. You can place bets on it.”
People think he’s “nuts,” but Wentworth said he was inspired to take on the personal challenge by family, friends, and his father who served in the military. Just a few days before Veterans Day this year the trip from “Sea to Shining Sea” began, and was coined “Walking For Heroes.”
Wentworth didn’t sound the alarms and alert the media prior to walking, and he didn’t raise money before he started either. He just left. “I didn’t really think it through. I just packed up and left. I just decided to walk,” said the 47-year-old Worcester resident, who was dropped off at Castle Island as his starting point in November.
Wentworth has already walked well over 300 miles, lugging a shopping cart with a tent, a sleeping bag, and a few pairs of clothes behind him, sleeping where he can, and bartering work for food and coffee.
He said he hopes to reach California by Memorial Day, 2014, no matter the odds, the weather, or the obstacles in his way along the stretches of highway that connect the East and West coast.
“There is a lot of military in my family, so I have always had respect for people in uniform,” he said. “I didn’t serve. I thought growing up with a Staff Sergeant as a father, I thought I did my time. We had white glove inspections and had to make the bed properly. But I’m trying to bring some awareness for our troops. I just think the soldiers—a lot of people don’t see—freedom is not free. These guys are dying, and I don’t think a lot of people actually realize what these men and women go through.”
In some instances, he has been relying on the help of complete strangers to get him through the day, accepting small donations for food, but mostly relying on money he has to eat cheap, and get by. Wentworth has also traded odd jobs for coffee and other quick bites on his journey.
“I am trying to do this as cheap as possible. I pitch a tent, eat dollar burgers, and I try not to spend too much,” he said. “Anytime that I find myself in a place where I see someone that needs help, I offer. I have mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, raked people’s yards. In the snow, I have offered to shovel driveways and swept parking lots.
Wentworth said he has set up a site where people can donate a “$1 for a burger or something,” but he is not collecting money for soldiers in any type of designated account. Instead, he asks that people take their money, put it towards the charity of their choice, and “maybe donate it on behalf of his project,” because he doesn’t want donors to think his efforts are a scam.
“I tell people to take their money, find a good cause, and donate it,” said Wentworth, a life-long contractor and roofer who used to run his own business. “I don’t want people to think I am scamming them, and I don’t want to be responsible for thousands of dollars of other people’s money. Give me a dollar from PayPal, that’s a great help. It’s a long trip.”
Wentworth has enlisted the help of relatives like Debbie Wentworth McArdle, and others, to help get the word out about his voyage now that it has officially started. He has been posting photos of the journey on his Facebook page—the pictures range from meet-ups with the Governor of Philadelphia, and employees from hotels that have allowed him to spend the night—where people can keep tabs on his progress.
As he got ready to leave Philadelphia on Friday, Wentworth said he was feeling good, despite some knee pain. But it was nothing that would keep him from spreading the word about the role the military plays in America, and the importance of bringing attention to the troubles many soldiers face when they return from active duty.
“The veterans are getting the short end of the stick. I’m trying to bring awareness to these men and women who always will be the backbone of this country,” he said. “I’m doing this for them. I’m going to just keep going, and maybe when I get to California, I’ll find what I’m looking for there. I’m 47 years old, so my knees are a little bit weak. But I’m getting stronger. When I first started I walked 10 miles, and I was hurting, now I can walk 30 or 40 before I’m hurting.”