KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Unlike the rest of his five-month journey, Ken Brock and his trusty service dog companion, Pam, took it easy when his hometown officially welcomed the U.S. Army veteran home on Sunday, July 14.
He sat perched in the front seat of a blue Chevrolet Camaro as a procession of sheriff cruisers, motorcycles, golf carts and anyone else who wanted to join the show slowly moved a little more than a half mile from the corners of State Roads 21 and 100 to Amvets Post 86. Residents huddled in shady spots along the route, many waiting for more than an hour to see their hometown hero. Clay County Fire and Rescue Station 20 hung a giant American flag from the top of its extended ladder truck.
Most of them left their posts at Hardee’s to stand in sweltering heat and join in the celebration. A store manager said a “skeleton staff” was still inside, but like so many other places in town, customers were standing along the roadway, not in front of cash registers, to see the man who walked 2,650 miles to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to bring awareness to post-traumatic stress disorder programs at Wound Warrior Project.
He walked into the waiting arms of his son, Arek Brock, a deputy with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, his daughter, Alexis, and six grandchildren in Idaho. He completed his improbable trip six days ahead of the town’s Fourth of July parade, where he pushed his 100-pound supply cart and Pam through a route of residents who stood five-deep.
On Sunday, he walked through the same doors at Amvets Post 86 that was the starting line on Feb. 1 for his cross-country expedition. He choked back tears as Keystone Heights Mayor Karen Lake read a proclamation that made July 14 Ken Brock Day in the town.
“When I first started out planning this, I had no clue what I was doing or what I was getting myself into,” Brock said. “It’s a journey that spanned over 2,650 miles, but it’s a journey I’ll never forget: the people that touched my heart along the way, the different outlook that I got – before I left and what I’ve got now. America is beautiful. It really is.
“Thank you for coming together and doing this for me. I just walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. Somebody sent me the video clip of “Forrest Gump” where he’s running and running, and he’s got that crowd behind him. Then he stops and goes, ‘I’m tired. I think I’m going to go home right now.’ Well, I’m home. I’m home.”
Like so many other obstacles along the road, getting home proved to be a challenge. He was scheduled to take Amtrak from Idaho to Jacksonville to arrive early Sunday. A series of delays meant he not only would miss his arrival time, but it put his arrival date in doubt.
So, he rented a car and drove straight through from Milwaukee.
Brock learned Rep. Ted Yoho (FL-3) honored him on the floor of the U.S. House on July 10 during his trip home. Yoho did it to forever preserve Brock’s name in the Congressional Record.
“I admit it, that made me cry,” Brock said.
He wasn’t alone.
Brock said he had less than 10 friends on Facebook when his trip started. Now he’s got nearly 1,800.
Despite the attention, Brock said he’s ready to step away from the spotlight and relax.
“It’s been hectic,” he said. “I can’t believe the support I got along the way. I never believed it would spiral into something this big.”
And he did it one step at a time.