By Martin Kuz | Story and photographs
Former U.S. Army battalion commander Col. Kenny Mintz, is walking thousands of miles, by mountains and across prairies, for the soldiers who didn’t come home and for causes he holds dear.
From the Lincoln Memorial to his hometown of Encinitas, Calif., the recently retired colonel is trekking across America, a journey that began in April and will end this fall.
“Come walk with me,” he said, while passing through rural Western Pennsylvania on his way to Ohio.
I jumped at the chance to speak with Mintz, having enjoyed his heartfelt and personal column for Postindustrial on the dark turn events in Afghanistan last summer during the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.
He walks for America’s veterans and for his mother, who died of pancreatic cancer. He walks, too, to raise money for scholarships benefitting children of dead soldiers.
His walk also pays respect to the 14 men in his unit who died during his command in Zharay District, Kandahar, Afghanistan, the birthplace of the Taliban and one of the more contentious areas of the decades-long war.
He aims to raise $45,000 for three charities: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, and Operation Resiliency, which helps support the mental health of veterans and their families.
The causes are deeply personal. His mother, Sandra Gualtieri, died in 2020 after suffering from cancer. Mintz is likewise passionate about creating community and support for veterans once they come home.
You can donate to the charities here.
He began walking in early April and expects to trek more than 3,000 miles in about seven months.
During our roadside conversation in rural Pennsylvania, a man drove by to collect his mail — and was surprised to find Mintz, wearing a blaze yellow vest near the mailbox, as he passed through the area.
“Every day you meet new people, learning about the lives of people, maybe that I knew years ago and don’t know as well now. You reconnect and just learn a lot about life just by listening,” he said.
The retired colonel walks about 20 miles a day, often talking to strangers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man who spent years in military leadership roles, even with miles under his belt by foot, on a recent day he looked refreshed and energized — moreso than some of the people who passed by.
“I wake up at 3 in the morning and I’m ready to go. I’m tired at the end of the day but my body and mind are in this mission mode of wanting to get up and walk everyday,” Mintz said.
A graduate of West Point, he served in the Army for nearly 30 years, ending his career as an instructor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.
These days, his social media posts are a diary of the pedestrian (coffee, lots of it), the quirky, and panoramic vistas captured by someone whose eye falls on details you’d miss while driving.
Figuratively speaking, Bigfoot is lending a hand as well.
Mintz uses the mythical “missing link” primate as a mascot of sorts for his journey, an homage to the spirit of walking, exploration, and the unexpected captured in his written posts and T-shirts.
(Photograph / Facebook)
(Photograph / Facebook)
Mintz has had plenty of other company along the way: Cousins, a former private in his company, West Point classmates, and his brother, among others.
“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of people who are willing to walk and drive for me,” he said.
Reflecting upon how people walked for millennia as the only mode of transportation, Mintz said: “Walking and talking has remained intrinsic to our humanity. This is part of what we were meant to do.”
Kimberly Palmiero is CEO & Editor-in-Chief Postindustrial Media, where she helps drive growth, revenue, new products, and partnerships. She is an editor, project manager, and small business owner. She previously served as a managing editor for Trib Total Media in Pennsylvania. Prior to Postindustrial, she provided consulting for media outlets to develop growth strategies. Reach her at email@example.com.
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