A Hudson Valley veteran has published a warts-and-all memoir about his incredible walk across America.

After his first day of walking, Tom Zurhellen couldn't even stand up to pee. His legs completely shot, the burly commander of the Poughkeepsie VFW woke up the next morning and immediately fell to the floor. Unable to walk, the Navy vet wound up improvising a naked belly-crawl across the floor just so he could relieve himself in a walk-in shower.

The Low Road is not a glamorous story about one man's victorious march from one end of the country to the other. Instead, it's many stories about people all over the country whose experiences are far more compelling than one person with sore feet hobbling from town to town.

Don't get me wrong, Zurhellen's account of the physical toll that walking 22 miles a day takes on a man is riveting. But it's his emotional journey and coming to grips with why he's found himself wandering around America for the summer that makes The Low Road a must-read.

Zurhellen admits that he finds discomfort in talking about himself or really sharing any emotions at all.  While these attributes may seem like a major hindrance for someone writing a personal memoir about a solo journey across the country, it turns out that Zurhellen is the perfect man for the job.

Epigraph Books
Epigraph Books

Instead of making this ambitious trek about himself, the VFW commander found inspiration in the stories of the veterans he met along the way. These aren't the military heroes that you hear about in those feel-good human-interest segments on the evening news. The vets Zurhellen encounters are real people who, for better or worse, are just trying to live their lives in a country that's forgotten about them and their sacrifices.

Zurhellen becomes his own Odysseus oar, traveling deep into the heart of the country and coming to grips with the fact that he no longer recognizes the man he's become or the nation he fought for. The long walk back to Poughkeepsie and his former life becomes even more significant as Zurhellen relearns who he really is through the people he meets, discovering why he decided to take on this ridiculous physical challenge in the first place.

Heartwarming, inspirational and hilarious, The Low Road will force you to contemplate your own journey in life and reflect on the unseen veterans that we've all just walked right by without giving a second thought.

The Low Road debuts on April 9 from Epigraph Books. To celebrate the release, Zurhellen will be hosting an hour-long virtual release party at 6pm on Friday. The author will be saluting veterans from all across the country, discussing the walk and sharing stories found in the book. All proceeds from sales of The Low Road, which is listed at $22 to commemorate the number of veterans who commit suicide every day in America, will go directly to the VetZero project.

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