Local veteran marches on to help his fellow vets | NevadaAppeal.com

Local veteran marches on to help his fellow vets

Veterans Policy Analyst Cesar O. Melgarejo presents Sgt. John Knott with a proclamation from Governor Sandoval's office Wednesday morning on the Capitol Mall.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

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Precisely at noon on Wednesday, a tired and proud veteran sergeant, John Knott, approached the steps of the State Capitol after walking 36 miles in two days.

With his noble companion Riege by his side, he greeted Cesar Melgarejo, Veterans Policy Analyst for the Office of Governor Brian Sandoval. He received a proclamation by Sandoval recognizing the plight of veterans in need for success of “Operation Resilience.”

“This march is an opportunity to raise awareness and acknowledge disabled veterans in Nevada,” he said. “It’s simple to put one foot in front of the other, but the mission brings strength to the community.”

Knott started the army ruck-march Tuesday from University of Nevada, Reno’s Legacy Hall on campus. He trained and prepared for the walk over the summer with the support of Double Diamond Athletic Club in Reno.

“Every once in a while, I run into somebody special,” said Mike Shirley, owner of the athletic club.

“I heard about what John was doing and I thought it was powerful. It’s great to share this story for motivation.”

But Knott, a Reno native, didn’t do the walk just to stay fit; he’s a disabled veteran himself.

The U.S. Department Veteran Affairs diagnosed him with epilepsy in 2009.

He enlisted in the National Guard of Nevada in 2000.

However, this didn’t stop Knott from moving forward. This is his third year of marching, as he ran the first one in Carson City after the IHOP shooting in September 2011.

“There are many soldiers out there with similar injuries,” he said. “It’s not a culture to discuss it with others and that’s why Operation Resilience exists. I’m asking veterans in need to get up, get out, take steps, get help, end the addiction and stop masking the pain. People do want to help — just ask.”

Since starting at Legacy Hall, the rest of Knott’s route continued through Reno’s Virginia Street Bridge, downtown and Steamboat Hot Springs. He set up camp near Bowers Mansion and continued through Washoe Valley Wednesday morning.

To show his appreciation, Knott presented a gift to Melgarejo, a photograph printed on a canvas. Knott took the photo of stained glass artwork inside the Soldier Memorial Chapel in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

The photo depicts a solider down on one knee, bowing his head with a gun in his hand.

“Times are tough,” Knott said. “There’s something about the artwork — the resilience, I suppose that caught my attention. I think the meaning behind it is that you got this future and this generation.”

Melgarejo, also a veteran, said he’s proud of Knott for spreading the awareness about disabled veterans in need.

“It shows that they aren’t victims,” he said. “We need to give them the opportunity with employment. There are a lot of things to overcome but there’s also a lot to learn from them. This march proves veterans are resilient.”

Knott then challenged Melgarejo to a 22 push-up performance in honor of disabled veterans in the state.

Knott’s mother, Elizabeth, was also in attendance.

“John gets out there,” she said. “It felt wonderful to see him finish. It’s the third time I’ve seen it, but it’s different every time.”

Although Knott reached the capitol, it wasn’t quite the finish line for him. From the capitol, he ran an extra 2.7 miles to the IHOP on E. Carson Street.

Among the late victims of the shooting were his close friend and brother in arms, Master Sergeant Christian Riege — whom he named his dog after.

With tears in his eyes, Knott said it’s a procedure to move forward.

“That tragic event affected a lot of locals and soldiers,” he said. “But that’s how this ruck march started. It brought us together.”