News: Walk to Afghanistan
Story by Jennifer Andersson
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Take a hike -- a 10,644-mile hike. Or a run. Or a bike ride.
An estimated 350 family members and other participants from the community show support for deployed soldiers by doing just that.
The 101st Combat Aviation Battalion kicked off the second Walk to Afghanistan Saturday at Fort Campbell, Ky., held in support of soldiers participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Due to the overwhelming turnout, the 5K event registered more than 1,000 miles of the 10,644 that distance Fort Campbell from Afghanistan.
Mitzie Forrest-Thompson, the chairperson for this year's walk, said she sometimes receives some odd responses when people hear "Walk to Afghanistan."
"The first response I typically get is one of surprise, or they'll look at me like I've lost my mind," she said. "I've had a couple of people tell me, 'I (don't) have that kind of time,' and 'Unlike Jesus, I (can't) walk on water.'"
However, once she explains the project is a collective effort with the miles counted from walking, running, swimming, and biking -- miles on the treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical count, too -- people are more open to participating, especially since children's miles also contribute toward the goal.
"So far, I've been pleasantly overwhelmed and can say that most people think it's an incredible idea," she said.
The first Walk to Afghanistan in 2009-2010 involved Family members only, though they logged more than 100,000 miles. This time, Austin Peay University, the Screaming Eagles Aviation Association and the Clarksville, Tenn., Mayor's Fitness Council are joining in to show the support of the community.
"We'd like to see everybody come out and walk on behalf of those serving us in Afghanistan and other places," said Janet Haase, a member of the Mayor's Fitness Council. "We feel this is a win-win because you can get fit but you can also show support for the men and women overseas."
"What a great way for families to do something together and have a goal, but not just a goal for personal fitness, but it's a goal to reach out to reach out across the ocean and say thank you for what our soldiers are doing for us," Haase said.
Anyone can participate, alone or as a team, as long as they track the number of miles they add to the effort. The more people who participate, the more miles gained toward the overall goal.
Kelly Bontrager, the 101st CAB Family Readiness Group Advisor, said the major intent behind the effort is for family members to bond, providing them a support network while their soldier is deployed. Another is to contemplate the sacrifices of a deployed soldier and their family.
"We appreciate everything they give, everyday, and the sacrifices they and their Families make, said Catherine Bertoldi, a Clarksville resident.
Bertoldi, who is very physically active, plans on tallying her miles from biking, walking and running to show her support.
Though she has no particular ties to Fort Campbell, Bertoldi said she wanted to show her appreciation for the military men and women who serve.
"Why do we walk? Because our soldiers and families do what they do, and we walk to honor them," Forrest-Thompson said.