Eagle resident Adam Shatarsky joins forces with his best friend and fellow Marine Chris Senopole on a cross-country walk for the Wounded Warriors of America.
By Kate Matthews
Photography by Copper Chadwick
On June 15, Corporal’s Adam Shatarsky and Chris Senopole will embark on a six-week trek across America in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. Their journey, now christened as “The Wounded Walk,” will begin at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base on the coast of Southern California and take them across the nation to the Marine Barracks on the corner of 8th and I in Washington, D.C. And while some might think them crazy, the determination of these two men to give back to their brothers and sisters in arms is nothing short of spectacular.
When Shatarsky and Senopole first met at Camp Pendleton in 2008 it seemed inevitable that somehow their fates would be forever intertwined. The two had just been assigned to their Platoon as part of the Weapons Company 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines and ended up as roommates in the barracks. Both men had West Virginia in common. Shatarsky, a Virginia boy, had gone to college in Athens, WV, just 30 minutes from Senopole’s hometown of Beckley, WV. The two immediately hit it off and before long found the commonalities of their “lead by example” personalities to be the beginnings of a lifelong friendship.
The pair saw action during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. As “ground pounders,” Shatarsky and Senopole saw the disaster first hand and were instrumental in helping the citizens of Oshima Island reclaim their lives from the devastation left in the wake of the storm.
Shatarsky and Senopole were honorably discharged from the Marines in 2012 and began the process of assimilating into their civilian lives. Senopole returned to West Virginia, and Shatarsky and his wife moved to Eagle. Despite the distance, the two remained close friends and begin hatching plans on how they could top the last thing they did together. And from those plans The Wounded Walk was born.
“You only get one shot at life and one shot to leave your mark,” says Shatarsky. And that is what Shatarsky and Senopole intend to do. These men are not okay with being mediocre; they are striving to live life to the fullest and intend to do everything in their power to give back to the men and women serving our country.
“There are countless men and women whose lives have been affected by war in this country, many of whom feel slighted by the system in the support they receive when returning home and we want to give something back to them—show our thanks for their sacrifice,” remarks Shatarsky. “This walk is not about us, it’s about them.” Senopole agrees, “The biggest thing for me,” he says, “is showing those returning from combat that they’re not forgotten, that they’re not alone and that somebody out there is keeping them in mind, remembering their sacrifice. That means a lot, especially when you’re suffering from wounds that can’t be seen.”
And what a walk it will be. The pair intends to strike out June 15 from the gates of Camp Pendleton and trek 2,700 miles across the US before reaching their final destination of the Marine Barracks at the corner of 8th and I in Washington, D.C. on October 1. And, as if that’s not daring enough, they’ll be routing their walk through the southwestern states of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico just as summer starts to heat up.
At present, the pair plans to set off on across the American west on the iconic Route 66 and take that route as far as Missouri. From there they will set off on the scenic highways and byways of the Eastern US as they make their way to Washington, D.C. But despite their planning, Shatarsky and Senopole understand the old adage about best-laid plans. “We know that no matter how well we plan, something will happen within each day that will cause a shift in those plans, we’re prepared for that.” Shatarsky remarks.
One thing they hope will delay the progress of the trip is the people they meet along the way. Both Shatarsky and Senopole hope that, as word of The Wounded Walk spreads, their fellow soldiers and their families, and even civilians, try to slow them down. “We are completely willing to sacrifice the timeline of this trip if it means connecting with the people whose lives we are touching along the way,” Shatarsky says. “I want to meet these people, eat some BBQ, share a beer, have them walk with us, camp with us and share their stories with us while we’re on the road. This walk is truly about the journey, not the destination.”
Ultimately, Shatarsky and Senopole are hoping to raise both awareness of and funds for The Wounded Warriors Project, a 501c3 providing services to injured servicemen and women as they transition from active duty to civilian live. The pair is hoping that The Wounded Walk will ultimately go viral as they blog, Tweet and Facebook their way across the country. With that virality, Shatarsky and Senopole are hoping that their funding goes viral as well.
In some respects, The Wounded Walk is the ultimate walk-a-thon. Not surprisingly, an undertaking such as this is not inexpensive. And while Shatarsky and Senopole have managed to bring in a few sponsors, including Pack Wheel and Hughwear, the bulk of their funding and fundraising is being done online through GoFundMe, a crowd-sourced online funding site designed for just this type of event. In the first 13 days of going “live,” The Wounded Walk has seen more than $1,300 in donations, and that number just keeps going up. After covering their base expenses for the trip, all proceeds generated through The Wounded Walk will go to benefit The Wounded Warriors Project.
“Even if we only raise enough money to put a ramp in the home of a returning soldier, we’ll have made a difference in that person’s life,” says Shatarsky. “Sure, we’d like to give more than that back to our brothers and sisters in arms, but even if we just make a difference in the life of one person, this undertaking will have been a success.”
Considering what Corporal’s Shatarsky and Senopole are setting out to do, success is the only option. And with the heart and determination of these two men, that success is sure to have a lasting and powerful impact on the soldiers returning home after their service is complete.
To learn more about Corporal’s Shatarsky and Senopole and The Wounded Walk, visit their Facebook page by searching for ‘The Wounded Walk’ or by visiting their blog at www.thewalkforheros.blogspot.com. You can also contribute to The Wounded Walk and, by extension, The Wounded Warriors Project by visiting www.gofundme.com/2jdlm8.