The hardest Walk: Local ATOs reflect on Walk Hard journey

Published 8:19 pm Thursday, March 12, 2020

On Thursday, Bryant Hussey was relaxing on the beach at Panama City. Or perhaps, “recovering” would be better word.

Hussey is a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Troy University. On Wednesday, he and his fraternity brothers completed a six-day, 128.3 charity hike from Troy to Pier Park at Panama City Beach.

Each year, since 2009, the ATO fraternity brothers have made the Walk Hard “trek” to raise awareness and funds in support of Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warriors Outdoor Adventures, which is nonprofit organization that provides outdoor experiences for combat wounded veterans.

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Hussey, who is still nursing blistered and aching feet, said the pain of Walk Hard has not diminished the feeling of gratification that comes with having done something for the benefit of others.

“Hard Walk was definitely tough, mentally and physically, and there were times when I had doubts that I could finish the walk,” he said. “There were the physical challenges – the pain — my feet, legs, the rest of my body. The sunburn. And, it was difficult to stay motivated.”

Hussey said even on the first few day of the hike, he questioned his ability to finish.

“I think Walk Hard was more than I had expected,” he said. ““I remember when it hit me that I still had five more days to walk. But, then I never thought about it again.”

Hussey settled into the walk and, for the first couple of days, he was near the front of the walk.

“We were all walking at the same pace and having a good time,” he said. “On day four, several of us dropped back to walk with some of the slower guys. But that night, I got sick. I was dehydrated and, on day five, I had to go to the hospital and get an IV.”

After his visit to the hospital, Hussey found himself lagging behind. Then, he was walking alone.

“That was tough,” he said. “I just tried to keep moving. I put my headphone on and listened to music. Then, to take my mind off the walk, I looked for road signs. I challenged myself to make it to the next road sign.”

Hussey said straight stretches of highway looked so far off.

“No matter how far I walked, it never seemed I got any closer to the end. It looked like I would never get there.”

But Hussey kept believing there was an end to the Walk and he kept a smile on his face and took one step at a time.

The walk did end and Hussey completed the greatest challenge of his young life.

“I wouldn’t take anything for the experience,” he said. “I’ll have these memories for the rest of my life. And, it’s real special when you do something that really matters and you do it together with guys you love. It’s not out of the question that I’ll do it again next year.”

But Logan Wilson didn’t hesitate with a resounding “no” to whether he would Walk Hard again.

But, he, laughingly, said he would like to be a member of next year’s support team but, walk again? “No.”

“My older brother, Cole, walked two years ago and it definitely inspired me to walk,” he said. “My brother and my love of ATO are the reasons I walked.”

Logan said “Walk Hard” is a good description of the Troy ATO’s annual philanthropy.

“But it was much harder than I thought,” he said. “It’s tough to explain just how hard it is. At one point during the 128.3 miles, probably all of us thought of throwing in the towel but we found what we needed to keep going.”

Logan’s twin brother, Stewart, was also a member of ATO Walk Hard. His dedication is also to ATO and to the mission of Outdoor Adventures.

“Stewart and I walked together for a while but he is quicker than I am,” Logan said. “It meant a lot to him, too, to complete the walk.”

For Logan, it was the inspiration of his older brother that kept him taking one step at a time during that those last long miles.

“Cole kept me going,” he said. “For me, it was payback.”

Strangely, Logan said the last few miles of the “hard walk” were the easiest.

“Walking into Pier Park was surreal,” he said. “With all the people waiting for us and the cheers. It was worth all the pain.”