Childhood best friends walk across America raising money for veterans

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MOLINE, Ill (KWQC)- They walk side by side near the TaxSlayer Center in Downtown Moline, their faces are starting to peel from the direct sunlight.

Matt Andersen is taller, he wears double layered socks underneath his Merrell hiking shoes. To his right, Trevor Stephens wears his old Marine Corps sweatpants to shield his legs from the sun.

The two have walked side by side for 57 days, averaging about 25 miles per day. They started along the Delaware coast and hope to make it to San Francisco by September.

They've been friends since seventh grade. Stephens says he "hit up" Andersen one day asking if he wanted to do it.

"He wasn't about it at first," he said laughing.

"He talked me into it and now here we are," Andersen said back.

"[We] get the chance to kind of see the country and the people in it," he added. "One step at a time at a slow pace to see it all."

"It started as a personal journey, something that we wanted to do that not many people could say they've done," Stephens said as he continued to walk. They hoped to be at the Arsenal Bridge sometime Thursday afternoon.

The two are walking for a cause, raising money for The Purple Heart Foundation. So far they've raised around $2,000 and they're hoping to raise $5,000 or more by the time they reach the Pacific.

"It's not only for combat wounded victims but for all veterans," Stephens said. "[It] helps them face challenges they don't need to face alone."

As they walk the bike path in Moline, the white headstones of the Rock Island Arsenal are barely visible through the trees across the slough.

"That's the cost of freedom over there," Stephens added. "It really is. Those guys over there had to do what they had to do and gave up their lives so that we can do this."

The two have accommodations in the Quad Cities, they're staying with a friend in Davenport. They jokingly say they want to walk across Iowa quickly because they've "already seen it." They're from Council Bluffs.

But, for most of the trip, they don't have a planned place to stay. Wednesday night they stayed in a barn outside of Joslin, Illinois.

"I'd lay right down here on the side of the bike path if it was dark," Stephens said laughing to a couple people asking questions while they took a pit stop.