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Marine walking across U.S. reaches Mendocino County

A U.S. Marine from Montana camped in Willits during a stop in what he figures will be a more than 8,000 mile journey across the United States of America.

http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/ci_11251233

By ZACK CINEK The Daily Journal
Article Last Updated: 12/17/2008 12:01:28 AM PST

Now on inactive duty, Native American Eddie Gray, of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, began walking from his aunt's front door in Montana on an afternoon in April, he said.

"That was the time when I started the odyssey," Gray said in an interview Saturday. He waited in Willits for a new pair of shoes from Nike expected to arrive early this week.

Now on his third pair of shoes, Gray has washed and sent old pairs back to his own school.

He said the idea that inspired him to take the walk came to him during a mock ambush in 1998.

"I wanted to be in the Marine Corps since I was 8 years old," Gray said. Back in 1998, Gray thought, "Who am I doing this for?" Gray said, "Who are these people?"

In his walk, Gray said he intends not to see the country, because you can see the country in pictures, but to meet people.

He said he is walking for veterans and active duty military people. He would like to bring back awareness to America that people are forgetting about vets.

Donations from veterans groups, like the American Legion, for example, and citizens keep Gray walking. He said he has given clothing to people he has met on the road, because they needed it more.

Gray said he writes in a journal every day and hopes to write a book when he is done walking. In his back pack are foot powder and baby wipes.

Baby wipes, Gray said, are like "a shower away from the shower."

To Gray, walking with a pack comes easily. "I have to keep moving," he said. "My legs itch; they want to keep going."

Gray carried a heavy pack while in the Marines, and also when he hiked for a job with the National Forest Service. "This is no different," he said. Working for the Forest Service is something Gray would like to do again someday "because I like that kind of work."

Hazards of the road include a man armed with a knife who tried to rob him. Gray said small towns are the best because you meet people.

When his Nike shoes arrive, Gray plans to make his way to Ukiah.

"I am a people person; I like to meet people," he said.

Zack Cinek can be reached at udjzc@pacific.net