HCA puts its muscle behind Mike’s Hiking for Heroes
When his military service ended, Mike Viti took a position at HCA, thanks to its strong veteran-recruitment program. However, his thoughts never strayed far from those still in combat, and the thousands of men and women who have given their lives during the Global War on Terror.
So, along with several longtime friends from the United States Military Academy and active-duty service, many of whom also are HCA employees, he launched Mike’s Hiking for Heroes, a walk across the United States to honor every service member who has died during the Global War on Terror. Starting in April 2014, Viti embarked on a cross-country walk that includes a kilometer in each of their names — more than 7,100 in all — while raising funds to build permanent memorials in their hometowns. Viti planned to walk 25 miles, six days a week to make the final destination: opening kickoff at the Army-Navy game in Baltimore on Dec. 13.
“Mike and I served together, and played football together at West Point,” says Matt Hernandez, Project Manager in HCA’s East Florida Division. “Our paths have crossed in many different ways, including working at HCA. This company provides great health care to the communities we live in, and we bought into the concept of that noble cause.”
After Viti came up with the concept, he fleshed out the hike’s logistics with other friends and former colleagues, and the event began to take shape. All along, the end goal remained clear.
“We lost soldiers, teammates, classmates and friends, and that motivated us to do something more. This wasn’t just about putting on a backpack and hiking,” Hernandez says.
“Mike wants this to be a powerful and sustainable thing, and really do something that creates a permanent memorial to the legacies of our fallen heroes. Our goal is to honor the individual legacies of each and every one of our fallen in a celebratory way for the life they lived and the legacy they have left with us.”
A marriage on the road
For Laura Viti, who is Division Director of Clinical Pharmacy for HCA’s Far West Division, marriage to her high school sweetheart has always meant some separation. She and Viti lived apart while each was in college and then during his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. This time around, she notes, “we’re going through it together, and I’m able to see him about once every three weeks.”
“We’ve had eight years apart in the 13 years we’ve been together, but like every one of them, this year is nothing short of a blessing. Getting to meet the Gold Star families and American patriots throughout this hike has changed both of our lives forever and is a huge reason why Mike has founded the nonprofit Legacies Alive to continue honoring the legacies of our American heroes.”
(For more information on Legacies Alive and its goals and mission, visit www.legaciesalive.com.)
The road is its own reward
For Viti, the journey really is more important than the destination. Although he had to resign his HCA position in order to start the hike, he knows the company is behind him and his team. And every day, he says he meets and talks to people who provide not only encouragement, but also inspiration.
“It’s so powerful, meeting with the Gold Star families that have connected to the project,” he says. “HCA is the pinnacle of health care because of its service to communities. The sacrifices of our fallen heroes and their families are for the greater good of each community in America as well.”