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Veteran walks for awareness

Michael Vosburg / Forum Communications Co. Tom Selleys, 87, unfurls his flag during a stop on U.S. Highway 81 on Monday as he nears his destination of Abercrombie, N.D. Selleys walked from Fargo to Abercrombie over three days to raise awareness for veterans.

ABERCROMBIE, N.D. -- Children chanting "U-S-A" greeted World War II veteran Tom Selleys Monday as the 87-year-old arrived here after a 28-mile trip - on foot.

The Fargo man walked from Fargo to Fort Abercrombie in honor of Veterans Day, dividing the trip over four days.

About 150 students from Richland Elementary School lined both sides of the street waving flags and handmade signs as Selleys approached Abercrombie carrying an American flag.

Once Selleys marched into town, he was joined by the color guard, a fire truck, students and teachers who accompanied him for his final mile to the fort.

Selleys, who made this trip for the first time last year, wants to remind people that Veterans Day is more than just another day off from school or work.

He returned this year after being inspired by the reception he received from the children.

Selleys began walking on Friday along Highway 81 and picked up where he left off again on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He had friends walk with him and drive his pickup behind him.

Selleys timed his journey so he'd arrive in Abercrombie when the students were in school.

"It doesn't hurt to instill patriotism in our youngsters," Selleys said.

The children sang "God Bless America" and continued chanting "U-S-A" along the way from the school to the fort.

When Selleys reached his destination, students called out "Thank you for serving" and "I'm glad you made it" before Selleys led them in the pledge of allegiance.

"I think he's our hero," said third-grader Holly Knutson.

Sixth-grader John Haverland held a sign that said Honor, Courage, Bravery.

"We're thankful for all the stuff the veterans did," Haverland said.

Principal Cindy Erbes said the students have learned a lot from Selleys.

"Otherwise Veterans Day seems a little foreign, but he's made it a really valuable experience," Erbes said.

Selleys, an Army veteran, served 15 months in combat during World War II and lost sight in his left eye after it was hit by shrapnel.

Selleys is an advocate for other veterans and has logged more than 2,500 volunteer hours at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fargo.

Selleys said he will evaluate his health before committing to another walk to Abercrombie next Veterans Day.

"It depends on if there's a difference between 87 and 88," Selleys said.

Amy Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.