A group of military veterans and supporters aren’t spending their Memorial Day weekend relaxing at home, they’re running from Scottsbluff to Hooper while carrying an American flag.
Organizers say they take it one mile at a time, and after five days of running along Highway 30, Miles for Heroes will have gone 464 miles across Nebraska.
“Start off usually between 5 and 6 in the morning and we take off with the first runner and every mile we’re just handing the flag off so the flag will get all the way across the state,” says co-founder Josh Marreel.
Marreel and fellow Marine Corps veteran Curtis Thomas served together in Afghanistan. The two started the run as a 100-mile walk in 2013. This year they took up the challenge along with more than a dozen others, including veterans of other branches and patriotic friends.
“It’s been rough, but we’ve got a really, really good group of guys and girls that are really dedicated to it, just have to keep them motivated even if it hurts,” says Thomas.
Their goal ties in with their footwear: the runners all wear combat boots, and through www.milesforheroes.com they’re trying to raise $10,000 for the Boot Campaign.
“The Boot Campaign is out of Texas, they’re a big supporter of adjusting with disabled veterans – whether mentally or physically disabled – kind of getting back to life,” says Marreel.
Runners say they’ve connected to many Nebraskans along their journey. They’ve made new friends and swapped stories with other veterans, even carrying a flag that a family took to Normandy in memory of a serviceperson alongside theirs for one special mile.
“We had a really good buddy of ours get killed in Afghanistan and it means a lot to us and I know it means a lot to other people to still show that there’s people out there that care a lot for veterans that are wounded, whether it be physically or mentally,” says Thomas.
“I want people to know that this isn’t just for the veterans of the war going on now, this for the Korean, the World War II guys, Vietnam guys, all those wars – we’re doing it in memory of them,” says Marreel.
Marreel says this year’s run is also in memory of 1st Lt. Donald Schwab, Nebraska’s latest Medal of Honor recipient. The run ends in Hooper, Schwab’s hometown, on Monday.