JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A military veteran and his dog are using their feet to help raise awareness and $55,000 for wounded service men and women. Their expedition, called Chasing the Sun, has captured the attention of thousands of people on Facebook and from across the country.
Early each morning, Austin Bain Shirley and his best friend, Archer, gear up for another long day of walking.
"I am hiking from Jacksonville, Florida all the way to San Diego, California," Shirley said.
Thursday's trek took the pair through South Mississippi.
"Everyone told me I was crazy."
While some may see this as a mission impossible, the 25-year-old disagrees. But he admits this journey is far from easy.
"Throughout this trip I have experienced some terrible storms, some cold weather, hot weather."
Shirley and his dog are weathering the rough conditions for a greater cause. They want to help those that have been wounded in war.
"The nonprofit organization we are raising money for is called Wounded Wear. It is an organization created by a formal Navy Seal by the name of Jason Redman. What he does is creates clothing for the needs of guys who have been seriously wounded, amputees and things like that," said Shirley.
Austin Shirley is a four year Navy veteran. He's seen firsthand how hard it is for the wounded to recover.
"From the base I was stationed on, I had seen a lot of guys coming back that were not doing so well. And guy I went to high school with, he was wounded overseas. So a little bit hits home for me," said the Navy veteran.
Shirley and his dog now have a large following on Facebook to help them. Austin blogs about the walk and donations are also collected through the page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chasing-The-Sun-2013/566911100011716
"I really don't ask for much, but we have walked in towns and met people. They have gotten on our Facebook page and have really went out of their way to help us out," said Shirley.
"The journey is already paying off. In just 36 days, the team has raised more than $5,000.
"That is what it all about," Shirley said.
The Navy veteran and his dog will have to continue carrying their message for several more months, and they're determined to finish this journey one step at a time.
If you would like to learn more about Austin's journey, or donate to the cause, visit: http://www.crowdrise.com/chasingthesun2013/fundraiser/bainarcher