'Hike Across America' brings awareness to homeless vets

'Hike Across America' brings awareness to homeless vets

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Hike Across America is a 3,000-mile walk that's designed to inspire and engage homeless veterans.

It's the work of retired Marine Shane Johnson, who was once homeless for two years. Now on his feet, Johnson wants to change lives one step at a time.

"When I opened up my first business in 2006 at 26 years old, we did exceptionally well. Then, the business just dissipated. It was gone," said Johnson. "The next thing you know, I was living out of a 1995 Toyota Camry with two boxes, and I didn't know what I was going to do."

Now, he owns three veteran-based successful companies.

Johnson is on a mission to re-train those who fought for their country to now fight for themselves. He's walking from Orlando to California with a lot of stops to talk - including the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.

"It's not secret sauce everybody's looking for. It really comes down to the simple plan of educating yourself, be self-taught and work," he said.

Johnson also has a non-profit group, Booyah Veteran Bus Project. Its mission is to help veterans transition into civilian life - which sometimes requires tough love.

"You've been given millions of dollars worth of training. You know that excuses aren't accepted. You know it's your responsibility to accept your actions and what you've done. You've got to charge forward and make things happen," Johnson said.

Army veteran John Welch was homeless for more than two years. He is the kind of success story Johnson likes to see. But, he has a stark message for everyone.

"Right now, with all the disasters going on, let me tell you something. People are experiencing homelessness that never imagined they would ever be homeless. And it's a rude awakening," said Welch.

Johnson will walk to Camp Pendleton, Ca. As part of his mission, he's working with the organization Clean the World to distribute hygiene kits to homeless veterans.

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