Veteran, wounded in Afghanistan, encourages 'Walk Hard' participants to keep going

Posted: Tuesday, 08 March 2016

BONIFAY, Fla. - Sometimes it helps to put your problems into perspective.

That's exactly what happened Sunday night for 31 members of Troy University's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity who are in the midst of walking from Troy to Panama City, Fla., to raise money for a local veterans' charity.

After finishing the third day of their six-day "Walk Hard for Heroes" journey, the walkers were exhausted physically and mentally when they stopped for a meal and some words of encouragement at the First Baptist Church of Bonifay.

Enter retired Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Dove.

Dove was wounded in Afghanistan in 2012, losing two limbs in the process.

Through it all, Dove persevered, and his message to the college students was simple: persevere, because it's worth it.

"People talk bad about millennials," Dove said. "Well you can tell them to go shove it. I can't tell you how proud I am of guys like you. I cannot come up with enough words to thank you guys for what you’re doing. From the bottom of my heart and my family's hearts, God bless you and keep driving on."

Dove's message received a standing ovation from the walkers and left some visibly emotional.

"I'm still in shock, honestly, because what we're going through is nothing compared to what he's been through and is continuing to go through," said Garrett Mingus, a sophomore from Auburn participating in his first Walk Hard. "This is just six days for us, but that's his life. For him to be excited about what we’re doing, it makes it easier to continue on this journey."

The walkers began their journey Friday morning in Troy and will finish at Pier Park in Panama City Beach on Wednesday.

"Day 3 is always the worst day for a lot of our guys," said Dash Merritt, director of this year's walk. “They walked 22 and a half miles today. Blisters are forming, lower back pain is kicking in, and knee pain is there. What starts to creep in on the third day is the mental battle."

Organizers are aiming to raise $20,000 for Jeep Sullivan's Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, a local nonprofit organization that takes wounded veterans on hunting, fishing and other outdoor bonding trips.

Last year's walk raised $11,000 for the charity.

"For a lot of us injured veterans, other than just the money they raise to help organizations like what Jeep is doing, it gives a lot of people hope," Dove said. "When a lot of us are sitting around and wondering if what we lost or sacrificed was worth it, it certainly gives us a lot of absolute assurance that, yes, it was."

Dove said too many people cast a negative image of today's youth.

"Regardless of what the system will or unfortunately most often will not do for us, our good people step up and bridge the gap when we need," Dove said. "Especially being in an election season now, you hear a lot of people talk a lot of crap about everyone. Unfortunately you hear a lot of negative things about our younger generations and how there's no good examples left, and events like this prove all is not lost. Our society, we're still here and as good as ever, and we're going to keep driving on."

To contribute to Alpha Tau Omega's Walk Hard for Heroes campaign, visit www.facebook.com/ATOWalkHard/ or www.gofundme.com/32khc7fs

Exercise bikes

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Dove meets with Walk Hard for Heroes Director Dash Merritt at a stop in Bonifay, Fla., Sunday night.