A Look Back At Their Walk Across America


Back in 2018, two friends, Matt Andersen & Trevor Stephens, began their journey, a “Walk Across America,” that would take a little over 6 months to raise awareness and money for a charity of their choosing. They chose that they would be walking for the Purple Heart Foundation in May 2018. They showed the power of what two people can do for the veteran community. Matt and Trevor were able to raise over $8,000 for the Purple Heart Foundation during their walk. We caught up with them to talk more in-depth about their “Walk Across America” and what they have been up to.


Thank you gentleman for taking some time to sit down and talk with us to catch up.

(Matt & Trevor): Thanks for having us. We are happy to be here talking with our friends from the Purple Heart Foundation. 


Trevor, you are a veteran. How do you look back on your days on active duty? 

(Trevor): Kinda like the walk, at the time it was a tough and frustrating time, and there was a lot of bad but looking back it was some of the best times of my life. It impacted me in a way that got me out of trouble. I truly believed it helped me in life in different ways. 

I have a friend actually who was helped by the Purple Heart Foundation with a grant around the time we began the walk. He is doing much better and is walking with a cane. He regained most of walking with a cane. He can’t work but still does therapy and lives in North Carolina. He has a good mental mindset, he still makes jokes and has a good attitude.


Does your status as a veteran prompt you to talk about issues like veteran suicides?

(Trevor): It is important because I know a few people in connections that know others that have committed suicide. When you are in the military you know how big of a deal it is. Going through tough situations sometimes you break. There is a lot of stress so it's important to let everyone know about what is going on with our veterans.


You two are good friends from Council Bluffs, IA, but how did the walk Across America get started?

(Matt): In 2007 we met each other in middle school in Iowa. In High school we became closer friends through mutual friendships. It was Trevor's idea to do it. The road trip was scheduled after I graduated from college and Trevor came out of military duty. Trevor was watching videos of people walking long distances for music festivals in a show. 

(Trevor): Going through a rabbit hole and seeing what others did to raise money for charity, I got the idea of walking across the country. I texted another friend if he wanted to walk across the country. I was not doing it by myself and texted Matt. At first he thought I was crazy. It took some convincing for Matt to finally get him to join the walk. We had brought up the idea of traveling before. Took him an hour to be set to want to do it, then 4th of July 2017 it was decided that we were going to do it. 


"This is where it felt like it became bigger than us.”


It has been a little while since you did the Walk Across America, how did you both feel about doing it in the beginning? How do you feel about it now?

(Trevor): It was hard to believe that we actually did it in the end. I go back and rewatch the videos they made along the way. It was 7 months worth of videos on the road. I look back on it and it was one of the best things I have done in my life, along with joining the marine corps. 


Are there any memories from the trip that stick out to you guys?

(Matt): From all kinds of people we met along the way. People took us in to have us as guests in their homes when they understood that we were supporting veterans and the Purple Heart Foundation. We met a man in Walcott, Iowa, stopped on the road when he saw us, went down the street, got food for us and came back. We ate the food in his truck. He gave us a signed book since he was a writer. I see a town somewhere and I remember and say wow I really walked through that place. People were always stopping to see us and ask what we were doing. And they loved the idea as soon as they found out and were supportive. One couple invited us to eat at a restaurant and let us stay in their home to sleep over. The Injuries we got as we walked were also memorable. Trevor's feet were hurting so bad. By the time we were in Indiana, Trevor had deep cuts in his feet and I had to find ways to help him.

This is where it felt like it became bigger than us. People said thank you and what we were doing mattered. We felt like we could not quit, it fueled us. It hit home for us. The people helping us the most and the biggest supporters all had a military connection, whether a veteran or a military family. They put us on The Chicago Tribune.



You mentioned how tough the walk was, were any states harder to walk?

(Trevor): Harder states were West Virginia by the Appalachian Mountains during the winter time. Utah was so hot I had some symptoms. I had a breakdown. Almost quit it but did not. We decided from Utah to Nevada we would walk before the sun came up. 

I Lost three toenails during the walk. I wasn‘t paying attention to my body and there were days where I had heat exhaustion and dry heaving. In Nebraska, we went to see a memorial/statue and had a full body cramp. I had to get IV fluids at the VA hospital. I was still affected badly by the walk even though I was still one of the best hikers because of my experience. My Shoes were wearing out. I Had to be in a hotel for three days, had blisters, and could not walk at all. We believed our feet were gonna harden up. 


How did you both feel when you finally made it to San Francisco, ending the walk?

(Trevor): Once we made it to Baker Beach, San Francisco, We definitely had mixed feelings. We were actually ahead of the scheduled timeline we made. Purple Heart Foundation had set up a little get together party for our family and friends to come to San Francisco and to celebrate with us. We couldn't believe that we made it. I remember Matt was looking over Alcatraz and taking videos of the view. That night we had a party and hung out with everyone and had a good time, walking near the ocean. We went to a bar and watched the Iowa vs Iowa State football game.

(Matt):We were so tired to comprehend that we made it. I Couldn't believe that we lived this lifestyle for such a long time and it was coming to an end. It took us 6 months and two weeks to walk across America. We started the walk on March 1st, 2018 and finished September 8th, 2018. 191 days and 3105 miles. We did not necessarily lose much weight because we were not eating the best foods while the trip occurred.


“The people helping us the most and the biggest supporters all had a military connection, whether a veteran or a military family.”


Would you do the Walk all over again? 

(Matt): Now I think neither of us could handle it now. We have really thought about it for a couple of months, we want to drive through the entire trail in a car and try to see the people we met. I tell you the experience was worth it and the freedom of being outside.


We remember that you both had plans after this, we wanted to know how are you guys and what you have been up to?

(Matt): I Went to New York and became a technician and then went to paris. Staying in France for a little long but I’m thinking of coming to the U.S. but I am not sure of it. Bringing up the Walk Across America looking for a job actually has helped me in the job interviews.

(Trevor): I will be graduating soon and plan to find a job with the national parks service as a ranger. 


Congratulations on your impending graduation. Is there anything you would like to share with anyone reading this?

(Both): Keep on going and help support the programs . The money is going to good places when you donate with the Purple Heart Foundation, and I remember how they helped my friends, they make sure that it goes to the right people in need of the help. 

Spreading Holiday Love

The spirit of giving brings us together, whether it’s giving Christmas presents under the tree or giving back in your community.

In an effort to spread holiday cheer, Purple Heart Foundation staff volunteered on Saturday, December 21, 2019 to serve a holiday meal and distribute care packages to homeless veterans at the Department of Veteran Affairs Community Resource & Referral Center, in Washington D.C., driven by the sole purpose, “to holistically enhance the quality of life of all veterans.”


It hurt to see the necessity in our own community; just think how many more homeless veterans are out there? As passionate employees of the Purple Heart Foundation that work hard to help as many veterans as possible, thoughts like this hit close to home. Our heroes deserve the very best after everything they’ve sacrificed.

Here’s what our volunteers said about their humble service on Saturday:

“It was a very positive experience. It felt really good to give back to those veterans who served” – Mitchell Theis

“The VA staff members had wonderful holiday spirit and I look forward to doing more volunteer work next year.” – Berhanu Adamu

The Purple Heart Foundation’s Marketing Manager, Amelia Kakar, said “It was very fulfilling to see all the veterans savoring the holiday meal we served, and to see their smiles as they opened our care packages. I’m also very proud of our staff who volunteered on a weekend to not only serve a holiday meal and distribute care packages but to bring hope, kindness and joy to homeless veterans who may not have been able to celebrate Christmas with family and friends this year. The experience was inspiring. My goal, as we move into a new decade, is to coordinate more experiences like this for our staff and corporate partners all over the country to work directly with their local veterans too.”

Purple Heart Foundation employee, Bianca Meruvia, has been volunteering since childhood with her mother, Luisa Meruvia, who also volunteered Saturday. Bianca said she chose a non-profit career path because “helping those in need fills my heart with joy. At one point in life I was in their position and I’m not ashamed because it made me the person I am today. I’m truly grateful for every little thing in life and everyone in it because when I needed help someone was there for me. I want them to know that I will be there for them and they’re not alone… especially at this time, which tends to be the hardest. It made me so happy to see the smiles on their faces.”

The staff enjoyed their experience giving back. Hands-on experiences such as this can be life changing for both the giver and receiver. Your support of the Purple Heart Foundation as we transition into 2020 will allow us to continue creating life changing experiences for our nation’s heroes. Donate by 11:59pm on New Years Eve USING THIS LINK, and our partners at Nexen Tire will double your donation!