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Son of WWII Marine vet walks 150 miles to raise more than $200,000 for Navy SEAL Foundation

Walking (Coffee/Pixabay)

Ted Gallagher is dedicated to helping wounded military veterans.

So much so that the 57-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area is walking 150 miles — from Zuma Beach in Malibu to Coronado Island — to raise money for the Navy SEAL Foundation. He plans to end his journey Oct. 19, near Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

“I want to finish right across from where the Navy SEALs train,” Gallagher said Friday, Oct. 4, while walking near LAX on his way toward the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Since Monday, Sept. 30, Gallagher has walked 10 miles a day with a one-day rest in Manhattan Beach.

His schedule is two to three days of walking for one day of rest. At night, he stays at Airbnbs with his wife, Courtney, who drops him off at his starting point the next morning after the two eat breakfast and picks him up at night when he’s reached his 10-mile goal.

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As he walks, Gallagher wears a long-sleeved white shirt and shorts, with a big-brimmed camping hat on to guard against the sun. He carries a camouflage backpack with an American flag and uses walking sticks.

“I walk at a pretty fast clip,” he said. “About 10 miles in three-and-a-half hours, if my ankle and lower back are cooperating.”

Gallagher already has raised $235,000 through an online fundraising campaign and personal checks, but welcomes more donations at his link at crowdrise.navysealfoundation.org.

Ultimately, if he stays fit and healthy, he wants to undertake more walks with the goal of raising $1 million for wounded, ill and injured military veterans over his lifetime.

“Ted is a force of nature — his commitment to helping others is a hallmark of his personality and we feel so fortunate to have him as a teammate,” said Sara Berry, spokeswoman for the Navy SEAL Foundation. “The funds he is raising in support of the foundation’s mission of service to the Naval Special Warfare community and its families will support critical programs that promote resilience, provide key resources, and help the families of the injured and fallen in times of greatest need.”

Gallagher’s current walk — called the Ted Gallagher 150 — isn’t his first effort.

In 2016, Gallagher, who works in commercial real estate, wanted to find a way to honor his late father, Ted Gallagher, Sr., who died in 2014. The senior Gallagher was a World War II Marine. After his service and throughout his life, he looked out for others and always found ways to serve his community, his son said.

Gallagher decided to honor his father’s memory with what at first was going to be a short walk in the East Bay to raise $10,000 for the Semper Fi Fund. The enthusiastic support Gallagher got from his friends, co-workers and the public, however, pushed him to up the ante and walk 75 miles around Lake Tahoe.

In the end, Gallagher raised more than $157,000 for Marine veterans from that first trek.

“He gave back a lot to his community in Oakland,” Gallagher said of his father. “He taught me that even when you don’t have money or if you’re blessed with money, it’s the right thing to do.”

Gallagher said he was amazed at the community outpouring and thought what he did was pretty cool. But, he also thought it was a “one and done” accomplishment.

However, as he and Courtney helped out other military organizations and met the veterans that were benefiting from them, he decided he needed to do more.

Over the course of the next year, Gallagher met many veterans — some in wheelchairs, some with amputated limbs and others with unseen ailments such as post-traumatic stress and depression. Many told him that without the help of the veterans groups, their lives were pretty hopeless.

Some told him they had considered suicide. That was hard for him to hear, he said.

“It just drives me crazy when these folks sign a blank check to the United States of America for their life and go all in, to come back — even if they’re not wounded and transition to normal domestic life — is beyond challenging,” he said. “They just don’t know how to do it. They’re used to high-intensity and it’s just hard to shut down. Then throw in a physical and mental disability — it’s just awful.”

Now, Gallagher is hoping he’ll create more awareness for their plight with his walk.

Gallagher’s walk hugs the coastline. Where he can, he gets off busy Pacific Coast Highway and transitions to beach promenades and trails. He expects to hit Orange County on Monday, Oct. 7, after a rest stop in Long Beach on Sunday.

By Thursday, the plan is to make it through Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente. He will travel a frontage road that runs along the 5 Freeway as he passes by Camp Pendleton. He plans to be in Oceanside by Oct. 15, his 58th birthday, and he’ll spend that day walking to Encinitas.

Along the way, he’s been joined by friends and family for some segments. But, mostly, he walks alone and thinks.

“I think about the brave SEAL warriors who gave their all to defend this great country,” he said.

To help out, here is his link.

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© 2019 The Orange County Register