I was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 8-1-1954. I was the 3rd boy born to
my mother and father, Leo and Evelyn Long. My father worked at
Couples Rubber Factory for 10 years while my mother became a house
wife. At the age of 6 my parents decided to move to Southeast
Missouri. There, our family grew to 9 children. (6 boys and 3 girls).
It was hard in the 50's & 60's raising 9 children. We worked as a family
mostly in the fields. We picked cotton in the fall and earned enough
money to support our family during the winter. My father was a trader
and earned extra money as a gunsmith and watch & clock repairman.
Times were hard but we always seemed to make it.
On my 17th birthday my parents allowed me to join the Army. I was
happy to enlist because the Viet Nam war was happening and I thought
it was my duty to fight for my country. I was also glad to relieve the
burden on my family, one less mouth to feed.
I really found the Army was what I needed. You might say I grew up in the
Army. I was able to finish High School and get two years of college
while I was in the Army. I spent 21 years in the Active Army and retired
right after the Desert Storm war ended. I can say I met two real life
heroes in the Army. I want to mention them here because they made
such an impact in my life.
Command Sergeant Major Randaleal was an important person in my life
because he was the first person to take me by the hand and teach me
how to grow into adulthood and become a good soldier. His unique way
of explaining things really had a profound impact into my life. I wished
that I could have thanked him for all his time he spent teaching me. I
really didn't realize how he influenced me until years later.
The next person is First Sergeant Thomas O'Brian. He was my Platoon
Sergeant while I was stationed in Geinshiem, Germany. Later I would
run into him again as a 1Sgt at Fort Bliss, Texas. He used to motivate
his troops by teaching history. He seemed to know everything that ever
happened in the US History and the History of the Army. I could listen to
him for hours while he would teach us. He trained us to be the very best
we could be. I would say that he (we called him OB for short) did more
than any other person in my life to influence me.
After I retired from the Army I became a truck driver. I drove an 18
wheeler for 9 years. I enjoyed doing that and saw a lot of our country. I
had spent 13 years over seas and felt this was a good thing to see my
own country. Little did I know and expect that over 9 years my weight
would balloon up to 380 lbs. I had been so active in the Military and
suddenly I was up to such an enormous weight. I was having trouble
getting out of my truck and doing the basic things like putting on socks. I
realized that I would die if I didn't change my life. I quit the trucking
business and moved back to St. Louis where I met my wife Cheryl. I
have spent the last 3 years trying different methods to lose weight but
nothing seemed to work.
I know this will be hard, but I feel my life depends on it. I have had
enough training and experience in the Army that I feel I have the basics
to do this. I feel that even if this trek across America kills me, then at
least I will die trying to do something about my weight. I hope that I can
be an example for others who have the same weight problem that I have
I am going to walk across America. I am very proud to do this for myself,
my Wife, my Family and everyone that loves and cares about me. I also
want to help bring National attention to Obesity in America.