Veterans hike to raise money on 100-mile hump

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Two local war veterans will hike from Arizona State University to the U of A campus this week to raise money for veterans injured in combat. The trek began Sunday morning, despite a minor set-back.

Last year was the first time Iraq war veteran Mark Finelli teamed up with other veterans attending the University of Arizona to hike from ASU back to their own campus.  During their journey they raised $8,000 for the wounded warrior project.

Finelli was supposed to start the trek Sunday morning with fellow student veteran John Riley Butler, but he fell ill with pneumonia during a visit to New York.

Butler had already left ASU.

"What better thing to do for somebody who gave a limb for our freedom to help them out," said Finelli.

Finelli says he started the annual fundraiser because he feels lucky to be alive.

"You know, six-month three-week tour in Fallujah in the infantry without a scratch on me.  So, I wanted to give something back," said Finelli.

This year's fund raising goal is $10,000.  Finelli has already raised $6,000, thanks to sponsors like the Trident Grill. 

Trident owner Nelson Miller is a retired Navy seal who helped rescue Jessica Lynch.

"There's not much of a story.  Just one of the good nights that we had in Iraq.  It could not have gone better and we got very lucky," said Miller.

Miller says he safely returned from deployment, but he wants to lend a hand to those veterans who will never be the same.

"I've got a lot of personal friends that are injured either amputees or a variety of injuries so any organization that's out there to help them get back to where they need to be we're going to support," said Miller.

Finelli says the hike will likely be cold and exhausting, but it's worth it.

"All of our wars have been in warm climates so really anything beats walking around with all that gear in 120 degree Fahrenheit weather we just put it in perspective and keep moving," said Finelli.