Mike Kelley has taken many road trips in the last few months - typically in support of friends who are professional golfers.
On Friday, he embarked on a different kind of trip. This time the Grand Lake area resident is using his long-distance driving skills to show support for his fellow veterans.
Kelley, a Vietnam veteran, plans to participate in the One Million Vet March on the Memorials this weekend in Washington, D.C.
The event, organized by "Brats for Veterans Advocacy Group" and others, is drawing together truckers, veterans, military families and advocates as a way to protest the government's shutdown of the war memorials due to the budget stalemate.
The goal of the march, according to the organizer's website, is to challenge the government's use of veterans as "political pawns in the ongoing government shutdown and budget crisis."
The website states the government's action to barricade and shut down the World War II Memorial is "a despicable act of cowardice."
The group has called on Congress to pass a bill that would prevent anyone in government from closing a national memorial down to any American, unless it is due to a maintenance issue.
Kelley said the closure of the WWII memorial spurred him to join the march, when he learned about the call for action through Facebook posts.
"I saw WWII veterans not being able to get in their memorial," Kelley said. "I got angry and frustrated and said, I'm going."
On Saturday, he will attend the 2 p.m. rally at the Iwo Jima Memorial, in support of WWII honor flight veterans. On Sunday, he plans to participate in the 9 a.m. rally at the National World War II Monument. He also hopes to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Kelley left his Grand Lake residence at 6:30 a.m. Friday for Washington, D.C. He plans to drive straight through, to reach his final destination, only stopping for fuel, food and an occasional nap.
His truck is decorated with American Flags and messages letting fellow drivers know more about his road trip.
One window advertises "War Memorial Clean Up Crew" - because he plans to help pick up trash at the monuments. Other windows read "Washington, D.C. or bust" and ""Veterans, Truckers, Bikers, Patriots, Washington, D.C., 12-13, Oct."
In another twist, Kelley is driving a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bi-fuel vehicle. He hopes to make the trip mainly on the alternative fuel.
"CNG is the patriotic fuel," Kelley said. "It's 100 percent American made, it's not imported. It's my answer to 9/11."
Kelley said he hasn't always been political, but events during the course of the past few years, have made him change his actions. He describes himself as being a former Republican who has "crossed over to the tea party."
Ultimately, he hopes Congress hears the rally participants and realizes veterans and others want the memorials and National Parks re-opened.
"Things that don't need to be closed should remain open," Kelley said. "Our forests, monuments and statues ... don't need to be closed."
At first, Kelley said, his desire to participate in the rally grew out of a mixture of frustration and patriotism. Now, as he journeys toward D.C., he is encouraged by support of his fellow travelers. One CNG company even provided free fuel for his truck.
"I feel like I'm carrying the banner for a lot of people," Kelley said.
For supporters not able to attend the rally in D.C., organizers of the march encourage people to gather at 9 a.m. Sunday at war memorials throughout the United States. In Oklahoma, a rally point has been set for the Oklahoma Veterans Memorial in Oklahoma City.
For more information about the march, persons interested may visit http://1mvetmarch.wordpress.com or http://bit.ly/1MVetMarch. On social media, posts related to the march are using the hashtag #1MVetMarch.
Watch www.grandlakenews.com for updates on Kelley's experiences with the One Million Vet March.