MT. VERNON, INDIANA — Butch Azar can be easily spotted walking with his Liberty Stick, a wooden staff topped with a green noodle, in one hand, and Uncle Sam on his back.
“I started walking from Seal Beach, California on January 23, my first steps,” Azar said. “I’m going to arrive September 11, 2016 at sunrise at the Vietnam War Memorial, and then I’m going to pay my respects to the War Memorial.”
Azar stopped in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, Sunday afternoon, spending the night before continuing on his trek of more than 2,600 miles to pay respect to those who have defended and continue to defend the Stars and Stripes.
“I’m doing it because our country is in trouble, I do believe, and I think that we can turn it around and I hope that somehow we do,” he said.
He said the idea of the Liberty Stick and a walk across the country first came to him in 2010, when he was in Washington, D.C. for the Restoring Honor Rally.
“The Vietnam War Memorial was there, so I took a name off the wall, traced it – Michael Bryant Snyder, who was a dear friend of mine through high school,” he said.
Azar is also walking for his fallen brothers-in-arm. He said he was in the Army from 1966 to 1968, but when his friends were shipped off toe Vietnam, he was told he wouldn’t be joining them.
“I kind of carry that guilt with me. Those guys saw a lot of trouble right away and it just was a bad war,” he said. “Uncle Sam on my back is basically those 1,999 guys.”
On his journey, he said he has met many people who have shown him kindness, helping to restore his faith in America.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is how good the American people are,” he said, “United we stand and divided we are falling, but united we stand and if we’re not divided, we won’t fall.”
It’s a mission that brings a smile to his face, like the one on the green frisbee that he carries with him.
“America, keep smiling. And we have to keep smiling. I think there is good change coming,” he said. “We just need to bide our time a little bit, and I think we can turn this country around.”
Azar said once he gets to the Vietnam War Memorial, he will be tracing the names of all the veterans from his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri, and plans on presenting the tracings back to his town when he returns.
He is encouraging people to join him at the Vietnam War Memorial on the morning of September 11. More information can be found on LibertyStick.org.