Ignoring his bandaged toes and brace wrapped knee and ankle, Vietnam veteran Joe Barletta finished his 370-mile walk across the commonwealth Monday.


Accompanied by Iraqi Freedom veteran Ben Jewell, 31, of Jamestown, N.Y., who drove along behind him, the 64-year-old Lake Ariel resident arrived in Honesdale mid-morning.


Ignoring his bandaged toes and brace wrapped knee and ankle, Vietnam veteran Joe Barletta finished his 370-mile walk across the commonwealth Monday.

Accompanied by Iraqi Freedom veteran Ben Jewell, 31, of Jamestown, N.Y., who drove along behind him, the 64-year-old Lake Ariel resident arrived in Honesdale mid-morning.

Theirs was a journey to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

How did it feel to complete the 21-day campaign?

“That I’ve done something that we were doing in war. We fought for each other because we care more than anybody can ever understand,” Barletta said.

In Vietnam, Barletta said he never had to question if that “Marine or that soldier next to me would fight for me.”

April 23, 1969, three Marines gave their lives protecting his.
“I was pinned down by a machine gun for eight-and-half hours. Three Marines died so I could live today,” he said.

Asked why he’d joined the journey, PFC Jewell said, “I joined the military to help people. And after the war, I let myself forget who I was. This journey has helped me remember that all I want to do is help people.”
Jewell says Barletta helped him to realize he’s still the same person who went off to war. 

Jewell served in Iraq in 2003.

21-days
The three-week trek across Pennsylvania began on Route 6 in Meadville, right next to the Ohio border.

 When she first learned of her husband’s plan to walk the monstrous route, Victoria Barletta admits, “I actually said, ‘You’re crazy.’

“At first I said, ‘No. It’s too much.’ I didn’t think he would make a week,” she remembers.

But, the people he met along the way seemed to fuel his determination.
“The people that he met, the veterans on the way, the people that just stopped and talked to him, he said it was great,” Victoria said. “Everybody stopped and thanked him, young, old.

“After a week, I thought: He’s going to make it. He’s actually going to make it,” she said.

Barletta says he’ll never forget the journey and the untold number of people he met along the way. Like the woman who stopped and gave him $10 and said her brother was killed Friday in Afghanistan.    

“And I had a sheriff in Bradford County; he just happened to be a Marine. ‘You’re doing a great job,’ he said, and he reached in his  wallet and gave me half of the money he had.”

Barletta says, “I started the trip with my own money and vehicle. And I got donations through towns. They’ve given 10, 20s, 50s. A state trooper gave a $50 check. He beeped the horn and said, ‘You’re doing a great job.’

People came out of their houses with flags, shaking his hand and giving him water, he said. He’ll never forget the shouts from their porches: “Thank you. Bless you.”

Barletta says the walk was the only way he felt he could “get awareness without it costing anything. Get me out here, a wounded veteran with another wounded veteran.”

Battling Post Traumatic Stress himself, the Vietnam veteran says the walk was his way of drawing attention to returning veterans and what they’re going through, spreading the message that the one who went off to war is still inside the service man or woman returning home.

“I would like to tell the families. It’s the same one you loved before they went over. But it’s like they had a terrible accident, and scars that you can’t see physically. They have physical scars and mental scars. It’s just like if you took that child and raised it, if you could look at that child, no matter how it looks or what it did and see the love inside. That’s an unconditional love,” he said.

“That’s what it’s about for me, for the last 41 years of my life. I’ve been accused of being hard, of being uncaring. And there’s so many of them, the ones that are coming home now. We come from a place where we’d sacrifice our lives for people, and that place is called war. We don’t leave our hearts there. We find them,” he said.

Watching her husband walk into town Monday beside the black pickup truck marked: Walking wounded, Wounded Warrior Project, Victoria smiled to see their grandson walking alongside him. Keeping step with his granddad was 9-year-old Jacob of Scranton, who’d opted to join him for the last four miles.

Holding brightly colored signs, Barletta’s and Jewell’s family and friends, along with local military organizations and town police, welcomed the tired trio home.

Lead by a police escort, the procession made it’s way to Honesdale’s Central Park where Barletta was thanked by VFW Post 531, Honesdale; American Legion Post 807, Hamlin; the Disabled American Veterans, Wayne County Commissioner Tony Herzog, and Honesdale Mayor Jon Fritz.

“Joe, you’re an inspiration to everyone,” said Commissioner Herzog said,
Saying “he made it,” Mrs. Barletta said, “He did a good job. And I hope it gets the message out to everybody.”

What’s the message? “You’ve got to be concerned about these veterans that are coming home.”