Wounded vets are joined by Joe and Jill Biden to finish cross-country trek dedicated to 9/11 victims

LOWER MANHATTAN -- They've served our country in war, and suffered wounds thousands of miles from home. On Thursday, though, a group of veterans walked the last steps of a thousand-mile journey to draw attention to the needs of fellow wounded vets. Joining them were former Vice President Joe Biden, and former second lady, Dr. Jill Biden, whose son was also a combat veteran, and who died of cancer after his service overseas.

The walk was dedicated to the victims of 9/11, whom the walkers honored in two ceremonies.

The six veterans -- three from the U.S., and three from the U.K. -- walked up to the Survivors' Tree at the 9/11 Memorial, and solemnly laid a wreath at the tree that revived after being badly burned in the terrorist attacks.

After the brief, silent ceremony, the veterans and the Bidens walked across Lower Manhattan for the final half-mile of the thousand-mile walk.

"We have a moral obligation to take care of all of these people," the former vice president told PIX11 News as he walked. "What it reminds me of is the sacrifice that our son made, the sacrifice that all these guys made, and these women made."

The trek, called The Walk of America, was sponsored by the veterans' organization Walking With the Wounded, a joint U.K. - U.S. charity, whose main patron is Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.

The walkers said that while they're honored to be supported by leaders of both of their countries, the most important part of their cross-country journey was the opportunities it created on a local level.

"Being able to deliver a powerful message like this one to the community out there, families and veterans," walker and Army Reserve combat veteran Frankie Perez said. "It's just unbelievable."

The walk began in Los Angeles in June, and went through a variety of cities, including Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Austin, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida, and Washington, D.C., before finishing in Lower Manhattan.

The walk concluded with a ceremony in Hanover Square, on the east side of the Financial District. The square features a memorial garden dedicated to the hundreds of British citizens killed on September 11th.

At the ceremony there, Jill Biden elaborated on some of the personal stories that the walking veterans she'd come to know had told her.

"Like [Air Force] Master Sergeant Adele Loar," Dr. Biden said. "In addition to other injuries, she lost her eye in an explosion that killed her partner, Dan, and driver, Jesse."

Some of the veterans, in turn, explained to PIX11 News what those kinds of major losses mean to them in their emotional, everyday journeys, when they're not journeying from sea to shining sea. The veterans also pointed out that there are small ways civilians can help them.

"In my case," Sgt. Loar said, "I had to explain to my neighbors, 'I love the fact that your kids are outside, but can they stay out of my yard? My yard is my safe zone.'"

"It's not that we're trying to be jerks or anything," she continued, "but we have our injuries, we all deal with it different ways."

One way to deal, some of the veterans said, is to walk -- anywhere. Jonny Burns was homeless after his eight years in the British Army, an assignment that included combat duty.

He said that the best advice he can give to anyone, especially veterans, who might be depressed and anti-social, as he was, is "Get a group of friends and go and do some walking together."

"Go out into the middle of nowhere and relax and enjoy yourselves," Burns continued, "because it really does make a difference."

The distance is of no consequence, he implied. In the case of the Walk of America that he'd just completed, it was a 1,000 mile walk across a total distance of 2,800 miles. The veterans' walk was actually a series of treks that were dozens of miles in length, over the course of 12 weeks.

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