Marine Walks the Walk

Marine Walks the Walk

by Susan Neuhalfen

How does one find his purpose?

For Marine Larry Hinkle, it was a series of events followed by tragedy.

“It was like Groundhog Day. I was working a corporate job, going home, waking up and doing it all over again,” said Hinkle about his post-service existence. “I was leading such a selfish life.”

A graduate of Liberty Christian, Hinkle played baseball at NCTC before joining the Marines. He endured three deployments, the final one being the initial invasion in Iraq in 2003. After his service, he knew what it was like to have to adjust to civilian life after war and having already lost one good friend in the Marines during his deployment, he was feeling the effects of a life out of balance.

Hinkle always felt like he was meant for more. While he and his fellow Marines were in Kuwait, before they made the push into Iraq, they talked about what they would do if and when they got back to the U.S. One of these things included seeing the country they loved—the country they were fighting for. Little did Hinkle know he would be doing just that.

“I didn’t expect to do it all on foot,” he laughs as he talks about The Hump. “I average about 15 miles a day, that way I can leave plenty of time to love on people.”
The Hump is Hinkle’s tribute to those who have served and those who currently serve. He is trekking across the country on foot, raising awareness and money for veterans and first responders. He started on April 3, the anniversary of the death of his friend 1st Sgt. Ed Smith during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Beginning at Camp Lejeune, NC, he has traveled across several states, including Texas, to get to his destination, Camp Pendleton, California.

“I expect to reach Camp Pendleton just in time for the Marine Corps birthday on November 10,” said Hinkle. “It’s taking a little longer because I’m meeting so many people along the way. It’s been an amazing experience.”

He credits his mentor Richard Caruso, USMC with inspiring him to do something different with his life. He came up with the idea for the walk after he lost another soldier and good friend to suicide.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

According to Hinkle, it started out to be all about the walk. He trained, he worked out a plan and he mapped it all out. Then he found out that many states don’t allow citizens to walk on the interstate system. He soon realized that walking into the communities is where he needed to be anyway. He has made it a point to visit nursing homes, police and fire departments, VA hospitals and any events that would connect him with the community. He’s also hosting many “Vet-Togethers” which not only raise money, but put all walks of society in one place for a common cause—and a good time.

Equipped with his “hump” (backpack) and American flag on his back, Larry has all kinds of people honk and wave as he walks. Both strangers and friends have walked along side him for miles at a time. He has met veterans, families of fallen veterans, police and fire departments, but there are a lot of average citizens that just stop whatever they are doing in their busy lives to give money, encouragement and sometimes just a hug.

“I had one woman drop her kids at daycare and drive all the way back just to give me a hug,” he smiled. “That she would go out of her way like that meant a lot.”

When asked about his best day yet, Hinkle said he was in the small town of Pelion, South Carolina, when he was approached by a man outside of a convenience store. He had lost his son, a Marine, in the war and just wanted to talk. They went across the street to a restaurant and their server was the sister-in-law of another Marine killed in service. This is a town of less than 600 people and Hinkle had already met two gold star families. He then walked to the memorial and the mother of the first Marine came to meet him. She spent 30 minutes talking about her son and the pride she felt for her country.

“Her take on her son’s sacrifice was incredible and so inspiring,” said Hinkle of his visit. “I still can feel how powerful her presence was.”

Donations may be made through www.thehump.org to Phase Line Organization or through Hinkle’s GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/fdhv53tx. For those who aren’t able to donate, Hinkle says he understands, but there is still something they can do.

“It doesn’t cost a thing to go to your local law enforcement and first responders and tell them what their service means to you and your community,” he said.

Despite a few injuries and setbacks, Hinkle keeps getting up, ready to go another fifteen miles, excited for what the day holds. He knows there will be lots of stories, lots of hugs and lots of love to go around.

“I do this for the ones who have families or injuries and can’t do it themselves,” said Hinkle of his experience. “I’m here to tell them what they mean to me and it always comes back 10-fold.”


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