Archive for August, 2012

Minnesota Moments…..

August 31, 2012

It has been a week now since this run has begun. A week of moments that are to numerous to remember, to vibrant to even explain. So how do I begin? Perhaps at the beginning is best but better yet I will throw them out there like the endless rumble strips I encounter on MN 53 as I head into Duluth.

International Falls…a 92 year old woman singing “God Bless America”, “Taps” being played as I took the first few steps. My wheel touches the river and waters mixed with the Canadian border. Young High School Cross Country Runners join me and take their turns placing flags. Don’t be so hard on todays youth, they remember every name. Long quiet stretches of highway and dead skunks. Gas stations and chocolate milk. A town called Little Fork and the most beautiful little 4 room hotel attached to the cafe. People take pride in their establishments up here. They honk and give a wide berth to the stroller. Shaila rides 10 miles and tells me how it feels to be a military wife. The difficulties, the absence, the worry and dread while her husband is away. Beautiful lakes and 2 nights in resorts along the shores. Loons and sunsets and genuine hospitality. Two hulking brothers on Harleys stop and tell me of their trip to see “Sarge”, their father, who is buried nearby. He was a WWII Vet and his name is emblazoned on a gas tank of one of the bikes. They place a flag and then roar off on an 800 mile trip back home. I stop and salute as “Sarge” passes. Loneliness is now non-existent. I have my company in my tray. They talk and I listen. Entering the town of Orr, Boy Scouts escort me to the hotel. A color guard is waiting for their fallen comrades. A twenty one gun salute, “Taps”…a small town shows their gratitude. I sit on the dock and see a sunset. Watch reds and orange dance across the lake, knowing I shall not pass this way again. In the morning I eat at the Patten Cafe “Home of the Big Donut” and it truly is, the size of my head and more remarkably, home-made as it has been for 35 years.
At a bait store called Grumpy’s is a cooler that is home to 48 different kinds of root beer. Fact. I counted each one. Matthew the manager, survived Afghanistan, his friend Scott Lundgren did not. We place a flag in the flower bed and I move on and on and on…

Kristen Turk is 21 years old. She works a day job at a Super 8 motel. She studies online to get accepted into Dental Hygiene School. Army Sergeant Brian Hobbs was 28. He was from Mesa, AZ. For a brief moment in time they are connected. She walks a short distance with me. She holds his flag. She has dreams as did he. Delicately she places him high on a mileage post. A spot she will drive by many times. Her connection to the Project is cemented in time with his. The miles come and go. The thought again creeps into my mind. Why? Why do I really do this? I never have a clear answer. I just run. I breathe the air of freedom. Freedom to live where I can do this and not have a fear of repercussion. Freedom to do exactly as I want for those who can’t. Freedom is often taken for granted and it is sacrifice that cannot be forgotten.

At mile 201 tomorrow the flags of 19 Navy Seals will begin to be placed. A tremendous loss for their families, for their comrades, for this country. I think of  Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, 3 Seals who died on the ground. I only know what I have read. I wish I had known more. I wish for just a minute with them. What could I tell them? Thank You is the only words I have.

Thank you for the life I have. Thank you for allowing me the honor to honor you.

“Age shall not weary them,
 nor years condemn
 for with the setting of the sun and in the morning,
we shall remember them….”

Onward evermore…..

A Champion………….

August 9, 2012

The sun sinks lower in the west over this lovely Idaho town. The coffee shop is quiet and yet my mind is full of chatter.  I do not actively seek out family or friends of those we have lost in Afghanistan however I made an exception today. Maybe it was to remind me of why. Why do what I am doing? Maybe its to hear firsthand how someone touched the lives of those around them while they were here.

Jake Plummer took the time out of his day to sit with me and to write the name of his close friend Army Corporal Pat Tillman on a yellow ribbon that will go on Flag #126.. They were both teammates throughout college and the NFL and I asked Jake what it was he remembered most about his friend. “He was a champion” a term that Tillman himself used to describe those that he was thoroughly impressed by, was the one Plummer used to describe his friend. Pat Tillman had a way of showing his genuine concern,interest and care for his friends. As Jake talked about him I could see the light in his eyes as he talked about the gift of knowing someone like Tillman. People said Pat was to small, to slow to be an NFL player. He listened and it drove him to succeed. People discouraged me from running. “You will never win anything.” “Your wasting my time” a coach once said. “We don’t want you” said the Army. I listened also and it has driven me. The negative was our positive.  He told me that Pat Tillman would have called me a champion. Not that I sought such approval but hearing it made me feel good. Made me feel like he was listening, watching somewhere over us…. I feel a lot closer now. Closer to the day I begin this last journey. Closer to the names I will remember. Closer to leaving more to this world than I have taken. The gift of generosity, from the heart, is a great gift to spread and maybe just maybe if  we can be generous in this world, with our time and our actions then we too, can also be champions.