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November 18, 2012 at 5:36 PM

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Veterans walk from Kennewick to Seattle in six days


BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veterans Stuart McKenzie, left, and Todd M. Hamilton, right, pause for a breather on the last leg of their walk from Kennewick to Seattle, Sunday November 18.

Army veterans Stuart McKenzie, 31, of Kennewick and Todd M. Hamilton, 35, now living in Chandler, Arizona walked 45-55 miles each day for six days with 80-pound rucksacks on their backs to raise money and awareness for the Shadow 6 Foundation, an advocacy organization for returning veterans. Each had their share of injuries - McKenzie suffered hypothermia made worse by his poor circulation due to an injury from an IED blast suffered in combat, and Hamilton was nursing a broken foot among other things. Hamilton founded Shadow 6 and McKenzie serves on the board. They met and became close friends in 2006 when they were in medical holding for wounds they sustained in combat. "When you've got 18 guys eating their pistols each day, something's wrong," lamented Hamilton about the high rate of suicide and emotional wounds in returning veterans.

Shadow 6 Foundation's goal is to build a 'Soldier's Sanctuary' in Ellensburg for returning veterans to spend time in their transition from combat back to civilian life. Hamilton talked of having a working farm, classrooms, housing facilities and counseling services, and maybe someday even a brewery to make it a self-sustaining place. 'Shadow' was the name of McKenzie's old sniper unit, and the saying "I've got your six" is Army slang for '"I've got your back," which is where the name came from. "That we're behind you, you know we're there," said Hamilton.

More information on the foundation and donations can be found at shadow6foundation.org.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veterans Todd M. Hamilton, left, and Stuart McKenzie, right, are all smiles as they approach their final destination - the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Seattle Sunday afternoon.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veterans Todd M. Hamilton and Stuart McKenzie are followed by another vet in Pioneer Square singing the cadence.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veteran Stuart McKenzie, 31, of Kennewick collapses in a coffeeshop after six straight days of walking with an 80-pound rucksack on. He was hypothermic the night before and still was having trouble keeping warm.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veterans Stuart McKenzie, left, and Todd M. Hamilton, right, take some time to reflect on their long walk together from Kennewick to Seattle. They met and became friends in 2006 when they were in medical holding after being wounded in combat. Hamilton helped McKenzie recover after sustaining serious injuries from an IED blast.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Army veterans Stuart McKenzie, left, and Todd M. Hamilton, right, are congratulated on their achievement by Michael Quigley, a Navy veteran who lives in Pioneer Square and heard about them on the news. They had just reached their final destination - the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Jamie Vance gives a hug and kiss to her fiance, Army veteran Stuart McKenzie, at their first sight after he completed an approximately 250-mile walk from Kennewick to Seattle.

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Bravo Zulu gentlemen! MORE
Great job!!! And thanks to the Seattle Times for making this a highly visible story... MORE
Nice hump men! Great job! MORE

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