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In Bradenton, amputee walks last leg of nationwide journey (with photo gallery)

MANATEE -- Carol Cruise walked along the sidewalk on U.S. 41 near the airport Tuesday morning.

Cruise, an amputee with a prosthetic leg decorated in an American flag design, stopped to plant a small cross made of popsicle sticks along the roadway in Bradenton.

It marked the 10,239th mile since she started walking the perimeter of the continental United States almost nine years ago.

“It’s amazing how something this small can touch so many lives,” she said.

The cross comes with a small message of faith and encouragement with Cruise’s story.

The Canton, Ohio, native and former chemical dependency counselor, lost her leg after a botched operation. Cruise said she felt called by God to walk across the United States.

“I said, ‘God use me as a better person, not a bitter person,’” she said. “I pray for our country and congregations and hope people realize church is not a building. It’s the people.”

Now with approximately 250 miles to go to complete her journey, which started in South Miami Beach, she feels overwhelmed with emotion.

“I’m really excited but sad at the same time,” she said.

Covering that many miles while taking breaks during the winter time, she said she has been bitten by a dog, suffered a couple of heat strokes, dodged cars at times and had a couple of falls during her journey.

Cruise travels with a companion who drives a van helping transport her and allowing her to take breaks. She also has a three-legged Pomeranian named Walker Tripod who sometimes joins her.

Sometimes she receives e-mails or letters from people who have found the crosses. Sometimes the crosses get passed on to others in need.

A couple had a flat tire and discovered one of Cruise’s crosses. They passed the message on to a suicidal woman. The woman later contacted Cruise, thanking her for her story and message of faith.

“I just read a couple of stories, and I’m ready to go,” Cruise said. “I believe we’re all supposed to do a faith walk. This is just how I’ve chose to do mine.”

To learn more about Cruise and her walk, visit www.faithwalk.net. She can be reached at faithwalkus@yahoo.com.

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