Servicemen’s dad who plans to walk 2,120 miles to support troops makes stop in Huntsville
Mike Mobley, who started his Operation: Hero Trek mission in March, stopped in Huntsville over the weekend. (John Perry/Special to The Times)HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Mike Mobley wanted to do something special to focus attention on the service and sacrifices of U.S. troops and their families – and raise money for four organizations that support active-duty military personnel and veterans, including the Wounded Warrior Project and Fisher House foundation.
So on March 24 – after a year-and-a-half of planning – he began his mission, called Operation: Hero Trek, to walk the distance from his home in Highlands Ranch, Colo., to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he’ll await the return of his son, Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Mobley, from Afghanistan after his fourth tour. Ryan’s twin, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Mobley, has recently re-enlisted for another 21 months and is currently stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.
Mobley’s goal is to walk 2,120 miles.
“I have 700 more miles to go,” said Mobley, who stopped in Huntsville on his journey and leaves Tuesday morning, headed to Chattanooga. “I hope to be (at Camp Lejeune) by the end of May.”
Mobley, who turns 59 Monday, has traveled through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee – avoiding major highways and staying when he can at Kampgrounds of America (KOA) locations.
He logs the miles that he drives in his Suburban, then walks that distance, with a support team back home handling the advance work plotting his course. He typically walks 20 to 30 miles a day, spending about eight hours walking – always wearing combat boots.
“I’m seeing America from a different perspective,” said Mobley, a moderator for two online military family support groups who has his own consulting business. “I’m meeting a lot of great folks along the way.” The two American Gold Star Mothers. Strangers who offered to buy his gas or take him in for the night. The man whose son is serving in Afghanistan who wanted to take him fishing. The retired teacher whose uncle served in World War II who insisted Mobley take a $20 bill.
“It’s all I can give you,” the man said. “I still have it,” said Mobley. “It’s one that I’ll probably keep.”
Traveling alone has been the toughest part of the journey.
“It’s not hard physically, but mentally. I’m so close to my family, it’s difficult being away this long.”
But that has given Mobley a deeper appreciation for those serving in the military, who are away from their homes and families for long stretches. Mobley had hoped to spend some time with a younger brother in Huntsville, but his brother doesn’t start a job here until later this month.
Mobley’s family also includes his wife, Deana; two daughters, Julie Gooden and Jenni Johnson; and three grandchildren.
He tries to check in with his wife each day and keep his website updated frequently. He takes photographs of the people he meets to post on the site.
Will he do this again?
“Probably not,” said Mobley. “I’ll think of something else to do.” One possibility is climbing the Colorado mountains that are 14,000 feet and higher. “That way I’d be closer to home.”