A band of 11 Vietnam veterans, three of whom had been shot or hit with shrapnel in combat, took to the road Friday in Anoka County on their final march to the home of Jacob Wetterling.
The veterans, led by Mike Clark, 63, have marched five times to St. Joseph, Minn., since 11-year-old Jacob was abducted there in 1989. Their mission: Draw attention to the plight of abducted and missing children everywhere.
"It's a cause of ours," said Clark, who was a 20-year-old Army infantry medic when a booby trap exploded in Vietnam, severing his left Achilles tendon. "I feel it's the right thing to do, just like I did 20 years ago, but physically it's tougher."
Accompanied on their walk by Jacob's father, Jerry, the veterans hoped to reach Big Lake by Friday night and St. Cloud by Saturday evening. They'll conclude their march Sunday with a walk to the Wetterling home.
They're carrying an American flag, a POW-MIA flag and a flag commemorating Jacob. They also carry signs that say, "Walk for Missing and Abducted Children."
"We want these kids to know we still care about them," Clark said.
The march to the Wetterling house is "absolutely positively the last three-day walk" the veterans will attempt because of the difficulty of navigating that 60-mile distance for many of them, Clark said. Some of the walkers are "wounded emotionally" from the war, he said, but have continued to join in the walk through the years.
This is unlikely to be the last trek for the cause of missing and abducted children, but future walks will be shorter, maybe 5 miles or so, Clark said. Meanwhile, he was pleased at the reaction as the veterans hoofed west in 20-degree temperatures.
"A lot of people are honking their horns today, and I believe it's in a positive way," he said.
Kevin Giles • 612-673-4432