NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A disabled Vietnam veteran who walked across the country for the past six months ran into a bump in the road on the last leg of his journey.
The wagon he pulled behind him from Las Vegas to Washington D.C. wasn’t there to greet him at the bus station in North Little Rock Wednesday night.
Thomas Hudson, “The Walking Veteran,” said he was getting the runaround from Greyhound. But in a surprise turn of events, his wagon was waiting for him when he returned to the bus station Thursday afternoon.
“This wagon is like a child to me,” Hudson said.
Less than 24 hours may not seem like a lot but just like when a child is missing, the veteran said the time apart felt like an eternity.
“This wagon has gone through all kinds of weather conditions,” Hudson said. “It’s been knocked over in protests and attacks. It’s been ran off the road with me. It has seen the worst of times and the best of times.”
The wagon was his only companion every step of the way the past six months.
“I protected this with my life,” Hudson said.
The real treasure wasn’t the wagon but what it carried: hundreds of priceless gifts from his cross-country journey.
“Everything in here has significance,” Hudson said.
Patches from police departments, hats in remembrance of fellow veterans, a military duffel bag from the family of a marine who died in the line of duty, even an award from Governor Asa Hutchinson stuffed the wagon.
“People want me to carry this stuff,” Hudson said. “I say ‘stuff’ but they’re sacred gifts in honor.”
Hudson even wears some of the gifts, like a patch from a fellow veteran and friend that signifies the hundreds of lives he saved as a doctor in Iraq.
“I gave it to Thomas because I think he’s one of the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life,” said James Pollock, a military and civilian physician.
But you won’t hear Hudson say that about himself.
“I’m not no hero,” he said. “I’m not no superstar. I’m not no celebrity. I am the messenger and that’s what this was about, delivering our message to our elected officials in Washington.”
Hudson’s days of walking are over.
However, he still has one more journey with his wagon, one that will end with them parting ways. His companion and its contents become part of history at a Henryetta, Oklahoma museum.
“It’s not just a person, it’s not just some old man,” Hudson said. “It was a movement.”