Awhile ago, we brought you the story of Paul “Doc” Doolittle, a mild-mannered Scout leader from Colorado who set out an an ambitious mission Oct. 1 to walk 273 miles–a mile in honor of every name on the wall of the official Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville, N.C.
This morning, on the dawn of the 30th anniversary of the Beirut bombings, Doolittle finished his walk at the wall. And he wasn’t alone. Though Doolittle, a former sergeant who served part of his enlistment as an Embassy Security Guard in Beirut following the bombings, expected his 23-day walk to be a private endeavor, interest spread rapidly through his Facebook page, A Walk to Remember the Beirut Barracks Bombing.
People from all over the country asked for one of the red-and-yellow T-shirts he made with a pair of boot prints and the words “A Walk to Remember,” and many embarked on memory treks of their own.
“As of about 11:30 last night, there were over 2,000 miles of walks in at least nine different states,” Doolittle said.
Doolittle walked roughly 12 miles a day around Jacksonville, N.C., finishing with a short walk this morning.
He said his most moving encounter during the walk came earlier this month, when he was having dinner in a local restaurant, and started talking to a young man who worked there about his mission to honor the Marines who died in Beirut.
“He looked up at me and said, ‘my dad’s on that wall,'” Doolittle said. “I really didn’t know what to say to him, other than to say, ‘I’m walking for your dad.'”
Though Doolittle is a burly, thickset guy, he said the biggest challenge he faced on the walk was not physical but psychological strain, which hit hard on day 14 of the walk.
“That was the day that I hit the wall on this effort and knew that I had to play true and complete the task,” he said.
The next day, he got up and hit the road again.
Doolittle described the end of the walk as bittersweet and said he plans to fly home to Colorado tomorrow.