ROXBURY, NJ – Unless it’s July 4 or Memorial Day, the sight of someone walking along Route 46 in Roxbury while carrying a big American flag is out of the ordinary. That, essentially, is why Michael Roberts and his nephew David Aceto, were doing it today.
If your goal is to draw attention to the plight of veterans, you need to get noticed. Two guys wearing backpacks, one with a large Stars & Stripes on his shoulder, are likely to get noticed. “It’s all about getting the message out,” said Roberts, a 50-year-old Army veteran, who calls his cross-country venture “Boots2Boots.”
By the time they reached the Midas shop in Kenvil today, Roberts and Aceto had walked about 1,800 of the 8,992 miles they plan to cover. Roberts said the trek began April 4 in Wisconsin and wouldn’t end until they ended up in California. Today they were headed for Connecticut, he said.
He and his nephew are surviving on donations made by those they meet on the road and through contributions to a GoFundMe site and Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org). He is documenting his walk on Facebook.
Roberts noted he and Aceto, 23, were checked-out yesterday by two members of the Roxbury Police Department. He said one of the cops, a sergeant, slipped him some cash before wishing him luck and driving off.
Roberts said he served three tours in the Middle East. “I got blown up several times,” he said. The experiences were bad enough. But Roberts said his life back home was similarly traumatic. His marriage fell apart, he couldn’t find work and he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
He eventually decided to embark on the journey in part to help himself but mainly to raise awareness of the plight of other veterans who need help.
Roberts walked while with his dog, Boots, but he let her go his sister's home because the ordeal was too rough on her paws, he said. It’s not been easy on hiking boots either; As he began walking east, to the sound of honking motorists, Roberts said he was on his second pair.