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San Diego native committed to kindness makes trek across country

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 10:16 a.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Armand Young takes a break next to the 9/11 pole that he is carrying as he walks along Route 30 west between Latrobe and Greensburg on Aug. 21, 2013. Young has carried the pole and gathered signatures from people he met along his 'human kindness walk' across the United States. He started in California and walked to the World Trade Center in New York City. He asks anyone who signs to perform one act of kindness in memory of those lost on 9/11.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Armand Young carries the '911 pole' as he walks along Route 30 west between Latrobe and Greensburg on Aug. 21, 2013. Young has carried the pole and gathered signatures from people he met along his 'human kindness walk' across the United States. He started in California and walked to the World Trade Center in New York City. He asks anyone who signs to perform one act of kindness in memory of those lost on 9/11.

Armand Young has been blazing a trail of kindness.

With a 6-foot, 60-pound bamboo pole on his back, the San Diego man has walked to 9/11 memorials in Somerset County and New York to honor fallen soldiers, collecting thousands of signatures over as many miles.

“My plan when I started was to change the world any way I could,” Young said Wednesday from the Wingate by Wyndham hotel along Route 30 in Unity. “I want to see a million acts of kindness behind my walk.”

Young, 49, continued his journey through Western Pennsylvania on Wednesday afternoon, stopping in Latrobe and then resuming his trek west to California, where his cross-country walk started in April 2007.

He carries the pole, which is decorated with firefighter badges and stickers collected along the way. American flags sprout from the top, bearing 549,000 signatures in black marker.

Young requests that each person who signs will commit an act of kindness within 24 hours, either in honor of a fallen soldier or for someone who was killed in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City, Somerset County and Arlington, Va.

“These soldiers now, they're dying for us to make our country a better place,” Young said.

Linda Skillings, Wingate executive housekeeper, signed one of the flags this week. She offered him prayers for the journey as an act of kindness.

Young started his walk from Santa Monica, Calif., and gave up a job as a masseuse, he said. The trip came to a halt in November 2008 when Young was in the state of Indiana after his mother died and he got married.

Later, Young started walking again and arrived at Ground Zero in New York City in September 2010 to honor the victims of terrorist attacks when two hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Center towers.

A third airplane was flown into the Pentagon and a fourth, headed for the nation's capital, was downed by passengers in a Somerset County field.

Young visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville earlier this month.

From New York City, Young walked to Gettysburg and took a break. He resumed earlier this year and passed through Latrobe Wednesday on his way back to California. He expects to complete the trip in another year.

“I live everywhere,” he said.

Young travels light — he carries a Thermos and a small backpack with a change of clothes and shoes. He walks 10 to 20 miles daily, carrying the bamboo pole and stopping to get signatures.

Young has relied on the kindness of strangers during his journey, sometimes camping out and other times sleeping in a comfortable bed.

Wingate manager Audra Aliff said she gave Young a complimentary room. Employees offered him a bag of snacks to take along, but Young declined.

Skillings went outside Wednesday to see Young off on his journey.

“It's amazing to meet people like that,” Skillings said. “I'll keep in touch with him.”

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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