Disabled Marine veteran walks to honor victims of N.H. crash

  • Marine veteran David Roberts, of White River Junction, Vt., is walking 90 miles to raise funds for the families left behind after fellow Marines and others were killed in a Randolph, N.H., motorcycle accident on June 21, 2019. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 7/2/2019 4:36:45 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — After the devastating accident that killed seven motorcyclists on a highway in the White Mountains last month, Marine Corps veteran David Roberts set out on a mission to raise awareness and funds for the families of the victims.

When his doctor told him that he couldn’t do anything more vigorous than walking for six- to eight weeks, Roberts decided to do just that: walk.

On Thursday, Roberts, 53, began walking, hoping to complete 90 miles, the same distance a proposed memorial ride may cover this weekend. His goal is to walk at least 10 miles a day, no easy feat for someone who had spinal surgery just two weeks ago. 

By Tuesday, he said, he had covered 70 miles, and said “it feels great” to have undertaken the mission.

Roberts, who grew up in Lebanon and lives in White River Junction, is walking local loops in the Upper Valley. On Monday morning Roberts’ walk took him to the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he’s been a patient for a number of years, to highlight its contributions to veterans. There, he was met with cheers and flags. On Wednesday, Roberts will once again walk to VA to finish his 90th mile while patients, employees and friends gather to support him.

Roberts said he plans to continue walking for the rest of the week and cover a final five miles to the site of the accident in Randolph, N.H. on Saturday. While his original intentions to salute passing motorcyclists as they completed a proposed Memorial Ride for the Fallen Seven were disrupted by a change in date to the ride, Roberts stills plans to finish walking at the crash site. 

Police said the seven motorcyclists, who were members and supporters of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, were killed when they were struck by an oncoming truck hauling a trailer on Route 2 in Randolph, N.H., on June 21. A 23-year-old Massachusetts man who was driving the truck has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide.

Thirty-three years ago, Roberts’ time as a Marine was cut short when he suffered a traumatic brain injury after being assaulted while on duty in Okinawa, Japan. 

Roberts’ disability hasn’t stopped him from helping others. In 2001, the 1984 Lebanon High School graduate completed a 24-hour walking marathon, raising over $1,000 for families of military personnel called into active duty after 9/11.  

Roberts didn’t know anyone in the crash personally, but as a Marine still feels a connection with the victims, most of whom were former Marines.

“Marines never leave another Marine behind,” he said. 

Donations can be sent to Twin State Detachment MCL. C/O Allen Olmstead Paymaster  273 US Route 5 North Windsor, VT 05089. All donations will then be forwarded to Jarhead M/C Fund for appropriate distribution to the Marines and families affected by this tragedy.

Laura Earle can be reached at lauraearle.515@gmail.com.

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