From The Blade
August 17, 2016
Tony Jones is on a mission for veterans awareness, specifically veteran suicide prevention, but he sees the treatment of veterans as a piece of a bigger issue, the lost unity of America. At some point each day, Jones calculates how many veterans have committed suicide.
"Right now, it's more than 1,400," Jones said. "On average, 22 veterans commit suicide per day. What is that? That's a problem and we're not solving it. I see it as a symptom of a big problem, we're not taking care of these people."
Jones' motivation comes from his belief that America is a country defended by heroes and if Americans are not willing to take care of those heroes, they aren't deserving of the soldier's sacrifice. Instead of looking down on Americans, Jones' mind is full hope. "Traveling at three miles per hour, I've had a lot of time to think. Although my mission hasn't changed, my expectation has," Jones said. "I thought America was lost, but it took me about 20 miles to figure out that America is still the same great place it's always been.
"I came across the country thinking, "if I found one person that would do something for someone else, I was successful. It turns out, I've found hundreds — I've done well. I've talked to the people and they've proved to me that we're better than that."
Jones' goal is to make it to Washington D.C. and tell congress that the government isn't doing enough to help its veterans. "I know that veterans are not the only group with issues in America, but if we could love each other enough to take care of this one issue, think of what that would motivate us to change next," Jones said. "Why not do that? You don't have to ride across the country to get something done, all you have to do is go over to your neighbor's house and start a conversation."
"Find somebody who needs you and help them, why not? What's the difference? I believe if one person in your family has a problem, you've got one, too. I promise, if you just go out and help somebody, it will change your life forever. I know what it feels like to be helped and I'm not that lucky. In some cases, I shouldn't even know. I'm not that good of a person. I'm not a prophet and a saint. I'm just a messenger with a message for Washington D.C. and they will hear it when I get there.
Jones stopped in Chatsworth for a few days because of the heat and to switch out his horse for one of the four horses he is using for the journey. During that time he was able to talk to the local legion chapter, as well as other residents in the area.
"I never knew much about Illinois, I had visited a couple places years ago, but Illinois has been so great since the minute I rode across the border into Warren." Jones said. "Actually the police escorted me into Warren. I told them that was the first time I'd ever been police escorted into a town, usually they are escorting me out."
" While traveling through Illinois, I've met a lot of people and I can't believe how good they are. I've sat and listened to them talk, I've heard their fears and their issues. I know that America can be greater than it is because I've met the people of Illinois and I know how good they are."
When asked why he decide to ride a horse across the county, instead of traveling by care or some other means, Jones said, "Horses discovered this country, horses settled this country. There's just something about a horse that still impresses people. When I ride by schools or daycares, the little kids come running and pet the horse."
"I might be a cowboy, that's what I did for a living, but first and foremost I'm a human being and a citizen of the United States. It doesn't matter how I get from one place to another, or what I ride, people see me and realize that I'm no different than they are- that's my hope for America."