Joshua Young poses in front of VFW Post 9770 on the course of his journey. Young logged 130 miles in 52 hours, covering multiple counties in his mission to spread awareness of buffalo soldiers and American Legion Post 354 in Alton.
People observe Memorial Day in many ways, from memorial services to barbecues.
Alton resident Joshua Young, member of the American Legion Post 354, utilized his Memorial Day weekend in a unique and patriotic manner.
Young walked 130 miles across nearby counties while representing the colors and raising awareness among veterans.
“I started the walk at 4 a.m. on May 28 in Marshall, Ill., with a backpack, and I walked across Clark County, Cumberland County, Effingham County, Fayette County, Bond County and Madison County,” Young said. “I think that walking down Historic Route 40 in Effingham County is where I saw the greatest portion of patriotism.”
The walk was conducted with an expressed purpose of bringing “awareness to the contributions of African-American veterans of wars, both foreign and domestic, who were residents of Madison County, specifically, Alton,” according to a pre-walk packet created for American Legion Post 354. The walk also served to assist Post 354 in opportunities to improve the quality of services provided to veterans, their families and their communities.
Young explained the mission in detail.
“Buffalo soldiers was the nickname given to the 92nd Infantry Division in World War I, made up of African-American soldiers from all states, including 100 men from Alton,” he said. “We want to reconnect those soldiers to that era, and this event serves as a bugle call to the all-around veteran demographic to rebuild, extend and expand on the pillars of Americanism.”
The 92nd Infantry Division was organized at Camp Funston, Kan., in 1917 and served in both World War I and World War II. According to the packet, the buffalo was selected as the division insignia to reflect the buffalo soldiers nickname given to African-American cavalry by Native Americans in the 19th century.
The 52-hour walk is a dream three years in the making.
“I’ve undergone heavy training, walking and running,” he said. “A lot of people have seen me jogging through the city. I also put some faith into my commander, Mr. Brice, in the beginning of the process.”
When asked about a moment on the journey that stood out, Young proudly proclaimed it was a close tie between two moments.
“A minivan passed as I walked, carrying a mother and three small children that were sad and teary-eyed,” he said. “They were coming from the funeral of one of the children’s friends. When they saw what I was doing, they smiled and gave me water and snacks. Whenever I walked by a local church on Route 40, the congregation gave me a standing ovation and that was the biggest boost of patriotism.
“The fact that it was a non-African-American demographic was a true show of Americanism, and proof that American values can reverse racial tension. I probably didn’t drink water for 20 miles after that, I was so stoked off the energy.”
Young explained that his other moment reflects on the kindness of county police departments through the duration of his journey through Clark, Cumberland, Bond and Effingham.
“I checked in with the sheriff’s department in each county, and they consistently came up to the stretch of Route 40 to check up on me,” he said. “(They were) really gracious, and they made me feel comfortable that each stretch of road would be safe for the walk.”
When confronted with challenges, Young made a point of pressing through in what he considers a determination choice, when the trail car was delayed on the first day.
“I decided to begin the walk with the colors and supplies until the trail car was able to catch up to me, and the sheriff’s department in Clark County made me feel safe when I started off solo,” he said.
Young spent the days before the walk preparing his body for the strain, focusing on a mostly liquid diet and participating in “long humps.” The physical toll is evident through the course of the Facebook posts documenting his journey.
“The walk essentially purged my body and ate away excess fat, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who isn’t an avid walker or runner,” he said. “Health and fitness coordinator Heather VanDuker was instrumental in the walk’s success by utilizing her company products to decrease recovery time dramatically.”
Young said he’d like to make the walk an annual event based on responses to this year’s event.
“I’d like to call it the Buffalo Mile and walk every Memorial Day weekend; it would be an honor,” he said. “I met such great representatives from different VFW posts along the way and saw some amazing sights.”
American Legion Post 354 is at 300 E. Elm St. in Alton. For information on Young’s walk, including photos and video posts, visit facebook.com/events/1724883504426410/?ti=cl.
Follow @NewsAdVantage on Twitter