By now, Justin Kuhel's legs are undoubtedly aching and his feet probably have blisters.

By now, Justin Kuhel's legs are undoubtedly aching and his feet probably have blisters.

He hurts from having walked a long way, and he has many, many miles still ahead of him.

But the 22-year-old Columbus man knows his pain is nothing, the journey before him a brief one, compared to the suffering and the distance that looms ahead for some of the men and women the ex-Marine served with in Iraq and especially Afghanistan.

Kuhel, the son of Clintonville Area Commission District 2 representative Nancy Kuhel, set out March 16 to walk the 396 miles to Arlington National Cemetery. It's a fundraising effort on behalf of the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project.

In the weeks leading up to his departure, Justin Kuhel met with business officials and attended meetings of civic groups, including the CAC on March 1 and Northland Community Council on March 6 to drum up awareness of his undertaking.

"I actually really, really hate being in front of large groups of people," Kuhel admitted in an interview last week as his departure date approached.

But again, he said, if the men and women with whom he served can endure being shot and blown up by improvised explosive devices, as happened on the very eve of his unit leaving Iraq during his first overseas posting, then taking the hit of public speaking is the least he can do.

Kuhel, with his mom following him in a car, hopes to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and visit the graves of some buddies, on April 1.

"Maybe sooner, maybe a little later," he said.

In any event, he must be back in Columbus by April 5 to start paramedic school at Grant Medical Center.

"So it was now or never for me," Kuhel told Clintonville Area Commission members during his brief remarks before them.

"I've definitely never walked that far, so we'll see how it goes," he told NCC members at their monthly meeting.

Kuhel, a 2006 graduate of Whetstone High School, initially wanted to be a Navy SEAL but let a buddy talk him into joining the Marines. He said he wanted to get involved with the Wounded Warrior Project after watching a 2011 documentary, "Hell and Back Again."

Created by embedded filmmaker Danfund Dennis, it highlights Marines wounded in combat and their struggles to return to normal life.

Kuhel at first hesitated to see the documentary, but then decided to do so because he would know some of the people in it, including central figure Sgt. Nathan Harris, who was in the same infantry unit as Kuhel, the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Sniper Platoon.

It was watching the terrible pain etched in the sergeant's face as he was filmed undergoing rehabilitation that struck Kuhel so profoundly.

"It really kind of woke me up," he said at the NCC meeting.

Kuhel, who has a medal of valor for his actions in combat, said he probably never even spoke with Harris, but he was moved to do something for the sergeant and others like him, and after deciding to take a fundraising walk, settled on the Wounded Warrior Project as the beneficiary.

"It's a really, really good organization that I really, really believe in," he said.

"I just decided I'd walk," Kuhel said of his endeavor. "You don't need a lot of training; you just hope you've got the will."

Kuhel consulted with people who have run marathons, including his sister, about what to expect on his nearly 400-mile trek.

"They've pretty much said no matter you do, it's going to hurt."

Kuhel plans to start a Twitter account and update the Facebook page he created,, on a daily basis to keep people informed of his progress and encourage donations through it directly to the Wounded Warrior Project.

"We support him completely," Nancy Kuhel said. "He's a great man, always thinking of how he can help others. It's never about him."

"I feel like they deserve no less from me," Justin Kuhel said of his former comrades in arms.