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Youth Walking To Washington Talks With Michigan Governor

October 24, 1985

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ A teen-ager marching to Washington to prove that his feet are good enough for the Army has won a promise from Gov. James Blanchard that President Reagan will know he’s coming.

Blanchard made the promise to Allen Pepke, of New Haven, Mich., on Wednesday during a telephone conversation with the 18-year-old, who has averaged 40 miles a day on his walk to Washington.

Pepke, who was rejected by the Army twice because of what one doctor diagnosed as foot psoriasis, hopes his trek will demonstrate that he can walk 20 miles in combat boots.

He was about 170 miles from the nation’s capital when he spoke with the governor from a phone booth along U.S. 50 near Grafton, W.Va. He expects to arrive in Washington on Monday.

″As far as I know the president hasn’t been informed that I’m coming. If there’s some way could you let him know and tell him the story?″ Pepke asked after Blanchard offered to help.

″Sure, we can do that,″ said the governor.

″We’ll notify the president and also Senator (Carl) Levin, who’s on the Armed Services Committee,″ Blanchard promised.

Pepke told Blanchard that after walking some 435 miles, his feet seem to be improving.

He described his condition as thick soles.

″They dry out and the skin peels. It’s kind of like a bad sunburn except without the color,″ Pepke said.

Blanchard also told the youth he’s arranged a meeting with Levin, D- Michigan.

″They’ll be happy to sit down and talk with you about the whole situation and see what they can do to help you get in the Army,″ Blanchard said. ″We’ll work with our friends (in Congress) to see if we can’t get them to reconsider their denial of your admission because of your feet.″

″Great,″ Pepke replied.

Pepke said a lot of nice things have happened on his hike.

″One man who was a veteran gave me a medal to carry with me that he had got,″ the youth said.

″Oh, that’s nice,″ Blanchard replied.

″I was really impressed. Like wow,″ Pepke said.

A recording of the conversation was provided by the governor’s staff.

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