Every fallen soldier deserves recognition and Mike Ehredt has found a creative way to do just that.
Since Aug 23., the 51 year-old army veteran has jogged 26 miles a day from Minnesota to Texas to honor the exact number of soldiers who died in the Afghanistan War, according to abcnews.com.
At every mile marker on Ehredt’s 2,146-mile journey he planted an American flag dedicated to a fallen soldier, according to the news outlet.
"I stop each mile, put a flag down that bears the name, rank, and hometown, in the numerical order of their deaths, and it creates an invisible wall across the country,” Ehredt told abcnews.com. “ I just wanted to do something for them, something genuine and pure that no one would replicate," he told the news outlet.
His initiative, called Project America Run, concluded on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 in Galveston, Texas, according to abcnews.com. The entire journey was carefully planned so that the total distance corresponded to the number of soldiers who died in Afghanistan, according to the news outlet.
Before running a marathon a day for 80 days, Ehredt had soldiers’ names written on 1,500 feet of yellow ribbon in chronological order of their deaths, according to msn.com. Each flag had an assigned GPS location so the soldiers’ family could see where it’s located, according to the news outlet.
Julie Magana’s son, Army Sgt. Jesse Tilton, died July 16, 2010 in Afghanistan. On Sept. 28 in Decatur, Ill., she helped Ehredt plant a flag for another fallen hero, Army Spc. Julian Berisford who was killed Nov. 4, 2009, according to pantagraph.com. Since Ehredt plants the flags in chronological order, Magana’s son’s flag will be located in Tennessee, she told the news outlet.
“This is history,” Magana told pantagraph.com. “This is something, no matter what, we’re always going to be a part of. I think Jesse would like that,” she told the news outlet.
This is Ehredt’s third time running for the nation’s fallen heroes. In 2010 he ran 4,300 miles across the United States and in 2011 he ran 500 miles in northern Spain, according to the organization’s official website.
Ehredt’s journey is a physical and emotional challenge. “I wish for just a minute with them,” Ehredt wrote on his blog about the soldiers he memorializes. “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.”