PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Rhode Island man is biking his way through Hampton Roads as part of a much longer 4,000-mile journey to raise awareness of homeless veterans, and to tell their stories.
Rick Hart pedaled away from his hometown of Newport, R.I. 47 days ago in mid-September. Since then, he’s spent at least 20 nights in his yellow tent.
“I call that tent right there the Hilton because I can fit all of my stuff inside of that tent,” said Hart, who says the two rules of the trip include no hotel stays and only sleeping in people’s homes at their request, not his.
“I am so blessed to live in the land of the free, and I want to inspire people to feel the same way,” said Hart, 28, who this week traveled through Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Norfolk.
The former construction worker turned sales representative quit his job to bike from Rhode Island to Florida and then west to San Diego. He hopes to complete the mission by February.
“I’ll scan the streets and look for homeless veterans, and I’ll talk to them and I’ll sit down with them,” said Hart, known as the ‘Road Warrior Cyclist’ on social media.
It’s on his Facebook page with more than 2,000 followers where he shares the stories of veterans living on the streets they once fought hard to defend.
“He looked at me and said ‘do you mind just sitting here for a little bit longer? Nobody ever just sits down and talks to me,'” recalled Hart of one encounter with a homeless veteran.
Hart has never served in the military before. He tells WAVY.com he never wanted to serve, but as he visits VA centers and homeless shelters, he understands that has only been possible because of those who served before him.