The road to peace is a long one.
And Earl Standberry wants to get there on foot.
The 32-year-old former Marine is walking across the country for peace, following in the footsteps of a woman who made the same trek 45 years ago.
He passed through Tucson Thursday, fresh off a six-day walk from Yuma and 550 miles into a trip he hopes will last a lifetime.
His goal, like that of Mildred Norman, the original “Peace Pilgrim,” is to spread the news that world peace starts with inner peace. He encourages anyone who will listen to search for happiness, trust God, get involved or write letters in support of peace.
“I hear so many people say, ‘I want peace,’ but they don’t do anything,” he said. “Not everyone can do a pilgrimage, but they can do something.”
His dark warm-up suit and tattered black walking shoes were donated by families in his hometown of Pecos, Texas. In his pockets are a comb, a bar of soap, Norman’s autobiography and several free-for-the-asking copies of a Peace Pilgrim pamphlet, “Steps Toward Inner Peace.”
“I carry no money,” he says, echoing the words of Norman, who walked more than 25,000 miles before her death in 1981. “I fast until given food and walk until given shelter.”
That sounds harsher than it is. Through the kindness of strangers, Standberry has gone no more than 30 hours without a meal, and he has spent many nights in the spare bedrooms and guest houses of people he meets along the way.
Outgoing but not evangelical by nature, Standberry doesn’t approach people or randomly hand out pamphlets. Instead, he waits for the inevitable questions spurred by the messages on his bright blue tunic: “Peace Pilgrim’s 45th anniversary walk for peace” and, “Walking coast to coast for peace.”
“I’m a walking billboard for peace,” he said.
While the Peace Pilgrim charted her journey on paper, Peacemaker supporters can track his trek on the Internet, at www.skyabove.com/peace.
A Desert Storm veteran whose four-year marriage ended in divorce last year, Standberry says he took solace in crack cocaine. Going through one sales job after another and finally living on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., Standberry - who was raised a Christian but had shelved his beliefs - prayed for guidance. Within days, someone gave him a copy of Norman’s book.
“I knew God had something else in mind for me,” he said.
As he follows the Peace Pilgrim’s original journey, Standberry can’t stay in any one place for too long. That can be tiring, he said, but he’s determined to stay on course.
“My job is just to plant the seeds,” he said. “I don’t know if the change happens or not. God takes care of that.”