An Alabama man on a quest to mow veterans’ lawns in all 50 states will make it to Alaska and Hawaii next week with the help of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.
Rodney Smith Jr., who runs a lawn care company in Huntsville, Alabama, said he leaves Monday for the Last Frontier.
This is Smith’s fifth U.S. lawn-mowing tour, and he hopes to help one or two veterans in each state.
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"We mow lawns for the elderly, disabled, single moms and veterans," Smith told AJC.com as he drove from New York back to Alabama on Saturday morning. "For my fifth time across the country, I'm just doing a tour for the veterans to thank them for their service."
Smith, 29, has been mowing lawns free of charge since 2015 when the then-college student came across an older gentleman struggling to cut his grass.
"I pulled over and helped him out, and that night I decided I would start mowing lawns for free," he said. "A month and a half later, I reached my 100th lawn."
His mission has spread on social media as young people across the county sign on to take part in The 50-yard Challenge where they mow 50 yards free of charge.
Once they’ve mowed all 50 lawns, Smith and his team fly out to wherever they are and provide them with free mowers, string trimmers and leaf blowers. Nearly 400 kids in six countries have volunteered so far.
The entire operation is funded by donations.
"I've come across so many veterans struggling to get their lawns mowed and that should be the least of a veteran's worries," he said.
A Delta spokesman said the company was familiar with Smith's previous work and eager to help him reach the last two states on his nationwide tour.
"A lot of our employees are military veterans," said Anthony Black, who called the airline a strong supporter of the U.S. military. "It's the spirit and selflessness of Smith, not only to help veterans himself, but to spread that message and get others involved that we were encouraged by."
After helping them with their yards, Smith sits down with the vets and asks questions about their time in the armed forces. He said hearing their stories makes him "feel like a little kid again."
He has been to all 48 contiguous states since his Thank You For Your Service tour began early last month, but he needed a little help reaching his last two destinations.
So Delta reached out to him several days ago after hearing of his efforts and offered to fly him to Alaska and Hawaii for free, he said.
"I'm really grateful for them. I was just trying to get from Huntsville to Alaska and then I was going to figure the rest out," he said. "Tuesday, I'll be mowing in Alaska; Thursday, I'll be mowing in Hawaii; and then Friday, I'll be heading back home."