Saturday, March 2, 2024

Windham vet walking to all corners of U.S., finding big hearts along the way

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Matt Dyer makes a stop in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, during his four-corner trek around the country. Now in Virginia, he plans to complete his walk in July 2024. Contributed / Matt Dyer

Matt Dyer’s attempt to cover the four corners of the United States on foot started as a fitness challenge when he left from his hometown of Windham in December. Now, the Army veteran, currently in Virginia, says it has turned into a “people challenge.”

He’s been amazed, he said, by the number of people who have shown him acts of kindness along his 5,8710-mile trek, which will take him to Miami, Florida, then west to San Diego, California, and north to Olympia, Washington. From offering him a cold drink to putting him up for the night, people have rallied to assist him in his quest, but it’s the simple act of their outreach that keeps him motivated, he said. 

Matt Dyer left his hometown of Windham in December. Contributed / Matt Dyer

Says Dyer, “Every day, it’s ‘Who am I going to meet today?’”

Dyer, who graduated from Windham High School in 2011, “always wanted to do a simple Maine to California walk,” something that only four people have ever done, he said. But then he decided he “didn’t want to be the fifth or sixth person to do something.”

“I wanted to be the first,” he said in a phone interview from Maryland, so he settled on the continuous four-corners walk that he expects will take him a year and a half to complete.

Currently in Virginia, he is hoping to be done with the snow for the season, and has timed it so that next winter he’ll be crossing the southern part of the country. 

“The way I planned this out coordinates with weather patterns across the country,” he said.  

He spends most nights in his tent, which he carries in a cart he pulls behind him, but he sometimes stays at hotels, or with people he meets.

“Now that my following is growing, I’ve had a lot of people hosting me,” he said. His Facebook page, 2023walkusa, has amassed 8,900 followers.

Dyer has been averaging 11.8 miles per day and tracks his progress on social media for friends, family and others to follow along.

Matt Dyer often camps out overnight. His pull-cart holds the tent and other supplies when he’s on the road. Contributed / Matt Dyer

In his recent past, Dyer has experienced a lot of grief, which he says “made me strong enough to do this.”

He spent last summer caring for his mom after she had surgery, but she is now suffering from memory issues. His father died in 2019, and Dyer plans to finish his walk on the fifth anniversary of his death, July 6, 2024.

In 2017, his estranged wife, also an Army veteran, died by suicide.

Greg Nicholson and Marissa Johnson, who live in Mt. Airy, Maryland, heard Dyer’s story through a friend. When Dyer passed through town, they invited him to spend the day with them and took him out for crab cakes.

“He’d stayed with some friends of mine and I heard the story and was inspired to reach out,” Nicholson said in a phone interview.

“He’s overcome incredible obstacles,” he said.

Johnson, a Navy veteran whose son is an active duty Marine, said “it’s a military family thing where if you can’t help your kid, you help someone else’s.”

A professional stretch therapist who works with NFL players and Olympic hopefuls, Johnson put her skills to work on Dyer.

“He said he had trouble with his hips and legs, so I spent an hour and a half helping him feel better,” she said.

“She performed magic on my legs and fixed me right up,” Dyer said on Facebook.

Many people so far have wanted to help him out, Dyer said, some because they think he’s homeless. While on a phone call with a reporter, he was interrupted by a man who wanted to let him know about a foundation that makes care packages for homeless vets. Dyer thanked him, but said he was all set.

He said he appreciates all the friendly gestures.

While walking through Connecticut, Dyer said, he was outside a Dunkin late one night using the WiFi to call his mother and an employee came out and offered him a cinnamon bun and a drink. In Pennsylvania, when his cart broke, one of his Facebook followers spent the day with him repairing it.

He thanks everyone who helps him out and documents their kindness and some of their own stories on his Facebook page. He also has a GoFundMe page and had raised $6,592 for expenses as of March 7.

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