NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — A 71-year-old man, inspired by his work last year at a park where veterans were camping because they were homeless and struggling with addiction, embarked on a 3,600-mile (5,793-kilometer), coast-to-coast walk this week to draw attention to their plight.

William Shuttleworth, toting a 25-pound (11-kilogram) backpack and singing "America the Beautiful," departed his hometown of Newburyport, of Massachusetts, on Wednesday for what he estimates will be a 7½-month trek to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California.

He plans to talk to veterans along the way and raise public awareness about the health care, housing and economic issues that many face, he told The Daily News of Newburyport .

"I'm particularly concerned about the number of homeless veterans that have mental health issues and the number of veterans that every day struggle with opioid and alcohol issues," Shuttleworth told WFXT-TV .

He has been walking about 20 miles (32 kilometers) a day for months to train and said he's lucky to be healthy enough for such an endeavor.

The Air Force veteran, who also had a 35-year career as an educator, has mapped his route and plans to walk about 25 miles (40 kilometers) per day. He intends to camp out because he hasn't reserved overnight accommodations.

He estimates he'll go through six or seven pairs of walking shoes.

Supporters can follow his progress on his website, https://vetsdontforgetvets.com .

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Information from: The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.), http://www.newburyportnews.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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