CAPTAIN AMERICA COMES TO TOWN

By: 
Hunter D'Antuono

Captain American walked into Livingston looking for a cheap cup of coffee on Tuesday morning. 

Allen Mullins, donned in his Marvel Comics superhero costume, has walked a long way. Once he reaches Seattle, his next major metropolitan destination, he claims he will have trekked about 91,700 miles, having already traveled to every capital in the contiguous United States — twice.

His mission? To raise $250,000 for the Elliot Palmer VFW Post 4217 in Warm Springs, Oregon, located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. 

The 34-year-old Dalton, Georgia, man said he initially didn’t start his walk in a costume, but discovered dressing up, and thus serving as a source of entertainment for passersby, made the public more likely to donate to his cause. He’d previously tried out other superheros, including Superman, but said so far he has had the most enthusiastic response as Captain America in his quest to raise awareness and funds for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. 

Mullins said he started his first walk for veterans on Jan, 5. 2009 — a 5,000-mile jaunt across the United States. He also once performed an eight-month-long walk, collecting enough funds to finance a new prosthetic leg for a veteran. 

With a face well-tanned and worn by the elements, Mullins shouldered a large green backpack affixed with the signature black and white  flag of the National League of Families that honors prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. He marched up Main Street, striking Captain America’s classic comic-book pose with his shield-raised whenever passerby stopped to snap his picture.

“Is this the way to McDonald’s?” he queried in a distinct Southern drawl as he moseyed through downtown. 

Mullins said he sustains himself with change he picks up on the street and from the kindness of people he meets along the way. He accepts food, but said he would only accept money from people so long as they promise to donate a matching amount to the VFW or American Legion. 

Even so, Mullins says he sometimes goes up to a couple of days without sustenance. He is Forrest Gump-esque in his determination to carry on. 

“Struggling the way I do, it builds character,” he said. 

Mullins is not a veteran, but has nurtured a deep respect for servicemen and women for the duration of his life. Before he began his walks eight years ago, he worked for a house builder who was a Vietnam War veteran and employed a crew of mostly veterans. Mullins said he gave up his house and his $18.50-an-hour job to perform his charity walks. As for his childhood, he was born into the custody of the State of Georgia and raised in foster homes. 

“When I was a kid, I was taught to tell veterans in uniform thank you for your service.” 

Tamera Calhoun, the Commander for Elliot Palmer VFW Post 4217 and an Army veteran of the Gulf War, said Mullins showed up at The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs  2015 “Treaty Day Pow-wow,” after being referred by another VFW post in Oregon to Elliot Palmer when Mullins expressed interest in raising money for a VFW post in need. 

Calhoun said Mullins stayed at their VFW hall after explaining his mission. Calhoun, a native of Warm Springs and a tribal member,  said their hall is an old garage converted into a meeting space. 

“He was saddened by the condition of our building,” said Calhoun. “He wanted to continue his walk and raise enough money to get a new building built.”  

Calhoun said she and the tribe still keep in touch with him. She said she admires his tenacity and willingness to put others before himself. She is listed as the organizer on his GoFundMe page. 

“I would just ask if anyone sees him along the road to be kind, and check on him,” Calhoun said. 

 Mullins’ hankering for a cup of coffee continued as he rounded the corner onto Park Street.  As he passed the Montana Cup, customer Kathy Jehowski rushed out onto the sidewalk to ask Captain American if she could buy him a cup. 

“You see?” Mullins exclaimed. “That’s karma, man!”  

Jehowski comes from a military family, and felt moved to support him after seeing his flag and Captain America shield inscribed with the words: “American Legion. Elliott Palmer Post VFW Post 4127.” 

Mullins doesn’t carry a tent, so as to avoid being cited by law enforcement for illegal camping, so he typically seeks shelter under bridges in inclement weather. 

On Monday night, he found a secluded spot to sleep in Sacajawea Park.  

In his journey across the states, Mullins said he has been arrested no fewer than 32 times. A recurring charge is “illegal parading without a permit.” But in nearly all cases, he’s held for one to two days and sent on his way. 

Mullins emphasizes his journey is all about helping people, veterans or otherwise. 

“I don’t want to get paid for nothing,” he said. “Love one another, because life is too short for hate. I’m going to do my best from the birth part to the death part.” 

Allen Mullins’ “GoFundme,” fundraising page listed as “Cpt America helping VFW Post 4217.” The page is 17 months old and has raised $1,630 as of Thursday morning.