This is not Rick McAllister’s first pilgrimage. A celebration of his 75th birthday this year, his journey along the Camino de Santiago will be his fourth. In 2012, Rick had open heart surgery but was committed to staying active. A friend told him about this pilgrimage trail and suggested that he watch the movie The Way, which is about the Camino. He did, and he got hooked.
The Camino de Santiago is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of the apostle Saint James. Saint James traveled to Iberia and the surrounding area to spread the word of Christianity in an area that was dominated by the Moors and paganism. In 44 AD he was summoned back to the Holy Land where he was beheaded by King Herod. His body was taken back to Spain by two disciples and today lays at rest in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the end point of the pilgrimage trail. While there are a number of caminos in Spain, the most popular is the Camino Frances which runs 500 miles from the small French village of St. Jean Pied de Port across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have made this journey, many for spiritual reasons but also as a chance for adventure.
Rick made his first 500-mile journey in April of 2014. “It was life changing,” he says. “While I left to make an adventurous journey, over the 35 days it took me to walk it, it became a very spiritual journey. I left by myself but I met some wonderful people from different parts of the world, several of whom I am still friends with today. I made a second journey in 2016 and a third in 2018, and I decided that I would make one more in 2020 to celebrate my 75th birthday. I wanted this one to be special and to be different, so I decided to dedicate it to our veterans and to the folks at K9s for Warriors who have done so much for veterans dealing with PTSD. I am a Vietnam vet and have tried to support our vets whenever I can. My grandpa was a WWI vet and my dad was a decorated WWII vet, so we have a family tradition of serving.”
So with this new goal in mind, Rick reached out to friends and family to gather names of veterans in their family or in their circle who they would like to be honored at the altar of Saint James. He has now opened up this list to the community. Rick will take his list of names to the pilgrims’ mass at the cathedral. Also inscribed is a brief message – “Heavenly Father, one of your servants walks in the footsteps of your Apostle Saint James on the Camino de Santiago. As he makes this pilgrimage, he carries the names of a few of your special servants who not only serve you but sacrificed to serve their country. We pray that you will grant them a seat at your table and that you will shine your everlasting light on them forever. In your name we give eternal thanks and praise. Amen.”
Since these journeys, Rick has done a number of speaking presentations locally, and he expects to do a few more sometime this coming June after his return. Rick leaves on April 21st for Madrid and the start of this new journey.
If you would like to submit a veteran’s name to be included on the list, please email Rick McAllister at [email protected] or text 904-501-7777. If you want to follow along on his journey, visit www.thelastpatrol2020.blogspot.com.