At 55 years old, Uncle Pat is the first to admit he isn’t the ideal picture of health.
So why would the Kingston restaurant owner — who jokes he’s overweight, diabetic and hasn’t done much to prepare physically — choose to walk 60 miles from Poulsbo to Fort Lewis?
For our wounded troops.
“It’s significant for me to do this to honor what they’ve done,” Uncle Pat said. “I don’t think they get the respect they deserve.”
The purpose of Uncle Pat’s 60-mile walk isn’t to bring attention to himself or the feat he hopes to accomplish. It is to raise awareness and money to support his efforts overseas.
Uncle Pat has traveled to the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany three times over the past year and a half. While there he cooks up some barbecue, bringing a taste of home to wounded troops while they recover.
The owner of TaTu BBQ, across from the library in Kingston, Uncle Pat uses his self-taught smoking and barbecuing skills to lift the spirits of American troops and their families.
“There’s something about a barbecue, there’s something about pulled pork and brisket,” he said. “Doing these barbecues over there on foreign soil brings those happy memories back. I think it’s because you have this food that represents America.”
Uncle Pat hopes to raise $5,000 for his next trip. The money will pay for the food he serves.
It’s no coincidence that Uncle Pat planned the first leg of his 60-mile journey for Friday. He left Poulsbo after participating in a Freedom Walk, held in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
All of Uncle Pat’s trips to Germany have coincided with important dates in our nation’s history. Earlier this summer he visited Germany during the July 4 holiday. He’s planning a trip for this winter in which he’ll arrive in Germany on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor day.
He tries to cross the Atlantic twice a year. One day he hopes to open a barbecue restaurant there, or at least a mobile unit he could take to military bases in other European countries.
Uncle Pat began sharing his barbecue with the troops somewhat by accident.
He traveled to Landstuhl to rediscover a town he lived in some 40 years ago, when his father was stationed there with the Army.
While searching for his childhood home, Uncle Pat stumbled upon the Fisher House, a home at which military families can stay while loved ones receive medical treatment. When he learned about the house he knew he had to do something.
“Now I just can’t stop going there,” the Navy veteran said.
Uncle Pat has used up his retirement savings to pay for his trips and food purchases in Germany. During his July visit Uncle Pat held two barbecues, one for patients and one for the families at Fisher House. He hopes to continue the tradition as long as he can.
His walk will end Uncle Pat afternoon at the Fisher House at Fort Lewis. Upon arrival he will cook a salmon and fettuccine meal for the 10 to 14 people staying there.
He sees the journey as a time of solitude and plans to use his time thinking about what life is like for American soldiers recovering from serious injuries on foreign soil. He will keep a video journal of his thoughts along the trip and will post it to YouTube when he comes across a wireless hot spot.
He plans to walk 15 to 17 miles a day and sleep in his truck at night. Friend and aspiring barbecue chef Kara Matheson volunteered to drive his truck daily to his next destination so he wouldn’t have to lug his camping gear on his trek.
She only learned of his plans last week.
“I was like really, you’re going to do what?” Matheson said. “You’re going to walk how far?”
As the wife of a sailor on the USS John C. Stennis and the daughter of a former Marine and Navy commander, Matheson said Uncle Pat’s dedication to the military is laudable.
“He just loves and respects people in the military so much,” she said. “You expect someone in the military to do something like this, but to see someone who isn’t in the military anymore do this, is very touching.”