Since July 6, Air Force veteran Richard Ladlee, 68, of Purcell, Okla., has been on a mission: to walk from Claremore, Okla., to Washington, D.C., with a U.S. flag in his hands.

On Wednesday morning, he stopped at the Neosho Daily News to ask for some directions.

His mission is to ask congressmen a question.

"To ask the congressmen, 'why have you disavowed the oath that our forefathers said 'In God We Trust,'" he said about his mission. "They have disavowed it, they are doing everything in the world to take religion out. How come the Supreme Court of the United States, nine judges, right, makes a decision of separation of church and state, and if they turnaround and look, the 10 commandments is right behind them.' You can not take away from me what my forefathers fought for, what I fought for, and what my nephews and my sons and generations ahead of me are fighting for, you can't just take it away.

"Number one, is the veterans," he added. "I like that they are getting the accolades because I was spit on when I came through San Francisco, Calif. But our veterans that are getting the accolades now, I appreciate them. My nephews, my dad (also named Richard), thinking about him, what he went through all of the way from Pearl Harbor to Germany to Korea and you are going to tell me 'that you are going to take my guns away from me and that is what he (dad) fought for, what I fought for, you can't take my guns away from me."

Ladlee walks between 20-25 miles a day with the flag, he has a support vehicle following him to make sure that he is OK. He is footing the bill financially, however, along the way, he has received some donations from passers-by.

"I wanted to follow old Route 66, just for the nostalgic part of it," he said. "For a time there, I got lost and I was on I-44. If you carry the American flag, nobody is going to really say a whole lot to you."

He said it takes him about six to seven hours to walk the 20-25 miles a day. Then, they bed down for the night.
Ladlee heard of another person who is also walking across America with the flag.

"I don't know who they are or what they are doing, but it is a publicity thing," he said. "Mine is not for publicity, I am not after that. When you carry that American flag down the highway, and people roll down their windows and wave at you, and honk their horns, that is enough for me. That means somebody cares."

Ladlee served four years in the Air Force, including a stint in Vietnam.

For him, the U.S. flag means something.

"When a veteran looks at that flag, he doesn't look at it the same as anybody else," Ladlee said. "The red is the blood of our comrades. The white is the purity of this nation, the 50 stars is the united that we are. And the blue stands for the universe. We (veterans) feel about the flag a lot differently than other people do."

Asked how long he anticipates it will take him to get to the nation's capitol, Ladlee said, "I don't care if it takes me until Thanksgiving, I am just going to keep trucking, just keep on going. You can't set a date. I don't know what is going to happen when we get up there (Washington D.C.), it doesn't matter to me."