Tag Archives: veterans

“Get Off the Wheels and on the Heels,” Former Green Beret Says

This is one of my favorite stories from my newspaper days. Fritz was a decorated veteran of the 82nd Airborne, a former Green Beret and a colorful character who became well-known and beloved in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

Fritz Bernshausen has walked 4,500 miles — just to deliver a message.

You might have seen him, two times a week, carrying the American flag from his south side Kenosha home, through Racine, to downtown Milwaukee.

What could be so important?

Fritz was front-page news in The Journal Times on August 29, 1987.

“I have a message,” Bernshausen said Friday on his way through Racine. “Walk America. That’s all it is. Two words — one verb, one noun.”

Bernshausen, 59, started walking the trail to Milwaukee about 3 1/2 years ago. In July, he started packing Old Glory to grab more attention.

“This is the 119th time I’ve done it,” he said. “I’m going to keep walking with that flag until I see some indication of a transposition of those two words — America walks.”

Bernshausen believes in foot power over gasoline power. You know, pedestrians over petroleum.

“America is in trouble all the world,” he said. “I figure the only way to solve that problem is to make America energy self-sufficient.”

Bernshausen said he is concerned about tensions in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, tensions he says cause two much risk and danger, just for the oil.

“A lot of boys are probably going to die for a barrel of oil,” said Bernshausen, a veteran of Army special forces from the Vietnam War. “It ain’t worth it.”

Fritz from his Vietnam days. (Johnson City Press photo)

“I’m concerned about my country,” he said. “I consider myself a public-spirited American…. This is my contribution to America.”

That contribution usually takes between 10 and 13 hours per trip, depending on the weather and how many people stop him along the way. If they ask, he gladly obliges.

“I got stopped by a policeman, I got stopped by a kid and a public works man,” he said, just before a photographer caught up with him. “I’m going to have to roll up the flag and run like hell.”

On occasion, Bernshausen packs some fruit to hand out to people along the route, which has become so familiar he said “I can almost do it blindfolded.”

Besides the flag, there is one other important bring-along.

“I carry some toilet paper,” he said, “just in case.”

While Bernshausen’s message is serious, the flag and the walking are good-natured ways of prodding citizens to think about fuel consumption.

“It’s real important to me,” he said. “It’s just too important (that) you can’t be serious.”

In that spirit, he quotes a phrase to sum up his effort: “Get off the wheels and on the heels.”

Once the long journey is finished, Bernshausen usually takes the bus home from Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue. That was not the case on Friday. He met his daughter for dinner in Milwaukee and had to accept a car ride home.

A tough sacrifice for the cause.

(From the Aug. 29, 1987 issue of The Journal Times)

EPILOGUE: Fritz Albrecht Bernshausen died on March 13, 1993. He was just 64. He is survived by a son and four daughters. He requested that his  cremains be scattered from an airplane at 1,200 feet — a paratrooper’s jump altitude.