FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Mark Looney, a Fort Wayne resident, wrapped up a weeks-long journey through several states to raise awareness of veterans facing homelessness and contemplating suicide.
The cause is personal to Looney, who grew up in a military household and was a survivor of suicide himself. After years of reflection and changing his lifestyle, Looney put his thoughts into action.
“I was a bad influence on the world for a long time,” Looney admitted. “I did a lot of negative, so I decided to put something positive out there.”
In late March, Looney travelled to Sevierville, TN, to start this interstate trek. The walk included stops at cities like Lexington, KY and Cincinnati before finding his way back to Fort Wayne.
Along the way, Looney livestreamed his stops on Facebook, asking viewers to donate to Invisible Vets, a non-profit that helps local veterans.
One of his biggest eye-opening experiences came when Looney was struggling to find a place to sleep for the night. With no access to a hotel, Looney stowed away under a bridge near a major highway. Those moments tested Looney, yet reminded him why he went on this journey in the first place.
“It kind of put even more in perspective of what these [veterans] that I’m walking for go through every day on a daily basis,” Looney said.
Looney did not walk alone during this hike. He benefitted from helpful hands along the way as a few commuters taxied him along interstates or streets that were not safe for pedestrians. Shortly after reaching Richmond, IN, a friend drove more than 70 miles to carry Looney across the finish line back to Fort Wayne.
Looney hopes his journey inspires others to help local veterans in need.
“We’re worried about housing while we’ve got these guys and gals out there starving and being shunned,” Looney said.
Looney wants to continue this dialogue with another cross-country walk, this time from Colorado to Fort Wayne. He plans to begin that trip in June.