COLUMBUS, Ga. -
Tuesday a 222-mile journey known as the Warrior's Walk came to an end at the National Infantry Museum.
SGT Patrick Griffith organized the walk from Fort Stewart to Fort Benning in honor of his brother-in-law SGT Josh Hargis, who lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in October. Griffith and a few supporters began the trek Feb. 17 in hopes that it would raise money for the family's medical expenses and the baby they are expecting, as well as bring awareness to people that the country is still at war.
Doctors thought Hargis was unconscious in the hospital after he lost his legs, but when a Colonel arrived to present the Purple Heart to him, his hand rose in a salute. It's become known as the "salute seen around the world." It's a sign of his courage, and it's still showing today.
Hargis walked on brand new legs the last quarter mile of the Warrior's Walk Tuesday. The crowd went wild as he and a convoy of about fifty completed their journey.
Griffith hopes the walk makes everyone acknowledge the reality of wounded American soldiers. He says, "It brings an awareness and an insight into what happens to people when they are wounded, and you can see just how difficult it is to get back to where you were."
"I hadn't been able to see him walk in person," says Hargis' mother Laura Heitman, "so it was just really touching and amazing to see him walking, especially so soon after being injured."
The participants say the journey wasn't an easy one, but Hargis' spirit and their mission kept them going. Griffith says, "We walked 21 miles the first day, not a good idea to start with 21 miles. We were hurting pretty bad at the end of that."
Walker and veteran Timothy Frost adds, "I questioned my sanity at the end of the day. Next couple days, a little sore, but after that it just started being part of our normal routine."
Family and friends say the "salute seen around the world" is not surprising, as Hargis is a humble, but strong spirit. Griffith says, "That's just Josh who he is. He's not going to lament and he's not going to lay down and let this thing affect him for the rest of his life. There's going to be ups and downs, there's going to be a battle, but he's a go-getter."
"To see that bravery in such dire circumstances, it moved me immensely," says Frost.
Holding back tears, Heitman says, "It's tough having my kids in the military, but I'm so proud of them. That's what I focus on. When they're deployed I focus on how proud I am of them."
Hargis did not want to be interviewed, but he and his wife Taylor say they were overwhelmed by the support they've received.
Griffith is still trying to raise money for his sister and brother-in-law. To learn how you can help, visit www.thewarriorswalk.com.