LEESBURG, Va. – The idea came to two best friends while having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse restaurant. Former Marines Adam Shatarsky and Chris Senopole decided to walk from Camp Pendleton in California to the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C.
“We had just finished running a 50-mile ultra-marathon and we were looking for the next big thing. I think that’s become part of our personalities in the past few years. We always have to be doing something new. We always have to be working toward something bigger,” Senopole says. “It’s just something crazy enough that we knew it would gain attention. How many times do you ever hear two guys walking across America for something?”
The nearly 3,000 mile trek needed a purpose, so they decided to use the opportunity to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“If you’re going to undertake something like this, you have to do it for a reason. You have to have something to get you through it. It struck near and dear to our hearts because of our friend Josh,” Senopole says.
Joshua Lopez is a fellow Marine who wanted to join them for part of the journey, so he walked from Walter Reed to Leesburg and will continue with them the rest of the way. “I felt it was the least I could do for both of my buddies,” he says. “It’s not as much as they walked but it’s definitely a challenge. At least for me.”
Lopez’s right leg was amputated below the knee after he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. “It was enough that it should have killed me,” he says. “My pelvis is reconstructed. My whole left leg is skin graft. Other than that, I’m good.”
Shatarsky and Senopole say he is their inspiration. “It makes me feel like I have some type of motivational push for something that’s positive,” Lopez says.
But the trip wasn’t easy.
“We went from the dry heat and the asphalt baking our feet to humidity in Arkansas. And it was just hot,” Senopole says.
“We ditched about $1,000 worth of gear on Day 2 on the freeway. It was just too much,” Shatarsky says.
But knowing the pair raised more than $55,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project is reward enough.
Hundreds of motorcyclists escorted the two Marines through Leesburg. (WTOP/Jamie Forzato)
Hundreds of motorcyclists escorted the two and their families through Leesburg, where Shatarsky grew up. They expect to arrive at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Oct. 7, where they will make the last leg of their journey to the Marine Corps Barracks.
“It was humbling actually,” Shatarsky says. “It gave me a renewed faith in this country. Walking across America knowing that complete strangers would bend over backwards to help you and they’ll take care of you just because you’re trying to do something good.”
Shatarsky says they’ve often been compared to Forrest Gump, but with a couple differences.
“We’re not walking back!” he says.