The second oldest man to walk from coast to coast, Walter “Chick” McGill has set out to become the first man to carry the U.S. Flag from “sea to shining sea.”
“God told me to do this,” McGill said. “There needs to be a new birth of freedom in America,” he said. McGill is calling his journey TransAmerican Crosswalk 2014.
For him, he added, “it means families meeting and praying together and bringing up children within God’s laws, such as the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule.”
McGill and his wife, Barbara, started the walk on April 23 after almost two years of planning. The trip started on their 19th anniversary “with a kiss and a prayer,” he said, from Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina. When the Kill Devil Hill mayor asked why, McGill replied, “As a pastor, kill the devil.”
His wife follows in a car brightly painted in red, white and blue with a mural that includes an American eagle. At times, she drives ahead and doubles back to walk with her husband.
Their destination is the Santa Monica pier in California and along the way, the 68-year-old veteran — he served two years in Vietnam — talks with fellow Americans about restoring the country’s founding values. The key, he explained. “is promoting new birth of freedom and integrity in America (borrowed from Lincoln’s address) ... with freedom, to be able to stand in the storms of life.”
McGill sees apathy in America as a problem. America prospered so much in the 1980s and 1990s, he said, “(it) got spoiled ... got used to it.” And when the economy went down, he said people got discouraged ... “caused a ‘bystander’ effect and no one wanted responsibility to others — even people in the churches don’t want to leave their comfort zone.”
But instead of complaining about the White House, McGill said, people need to make the difference and take responsibility for what is going on.
“Freedom is not free,” he said. The continental walker said the buck stops with families. “When you have strong families, it makes strong communities, states and country.”
He said the Scriptures God gave has a message of mercy and hope. And, he continued, “We’re not giving children the right to life. America needs to turn and put God back in their lives.”
McGill is a founding member of the Creation Seventh Day Adventist movement (not associated with the Seventh-day Adventists). They went to Uganda six years ago and plan to return next year to continue projects there.
He moved in 1998 to McNairy County from Knoxville. McNairy County is the movie venue for “Walking Tall,” a fitting parallel for a “freedom walk.”
McGill said he wants to drive up to Knoxville after getting through Chattanooga and walk across his hometown in honor of his great-uncle, Troy McGill. The Troy McGill Parkway is named after his great-uncle, who died defending his country and was honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
McGill was in Arizona to experience how the homeless lived — surviving eight months sleeping in a tent — when God spoke to him about the trans-continental walk.
“God woke me up at midnight and said, ‘walk from coast to coast.’”
McGill said he objected — “Get a younger man.”
But the next night, he was awakened again with the same directive: “Walk from coast to coast.”
To God, he said, “I thought we settled that last night.”
On the third night, he said, he knew it was serious and was humbled.
“Not my will,” he answered. And hearing “My grace is sufficient,” he said he went forward in obedience.
McGill said they don’t ask for anything, and are able to meet the trip expense through donations as “people like to help out.”
He estimates on the trip he will wear out six to eight pairs of shoes.
What’s important, McGill said, is not the walk, but connecting with people and promoting the cause, referring to the Scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
He said the laity needs to see an example, such as the two Baptist pastors who walked with him for a half mile as he reached the finish line one day.
McGill said he had a vision that a whole crowd of people would walk along with him at times, and “some have walked with me,” he said.
In North Carolina, a Church of God pastor noticed he was dragging his leg (because of a football injury to his knee). McGill said the pastor walked along with him and said, “Let’s pray over that knee.”
Later, when leaving the town, McGill said he asked God, “When are you going to answer that prayer?” And he said He did.
When the McGills stopped by the Banner on July 18, it was their 55th walking day, covering 15 miles that day, which made 735 miles. He said they don’t walk a straight line, but “take a crooked path.” On their way from North Carolina to Tennessee, they went through South Carolina and Georgia.
He said they started out to do 20 miles a day, but cut it to 13 to 15. “I don’t want to injure myself to where I can’t finish,” he confided.
But McGill has confidence he will finish the journey.
“My lungs are strong, heart is strong” he said, “and I’ll crawl if necessary.”