Sweat pouring down faces and heart beats racing. Bright colored signs and smiling faces. Children running around with dogs following closely behind.
Laughter, hugs, and smiles can be heard from far away. This is a site all too common at the Walk to Afghanistan events hosted by the 864th Engineer Battalion Family Readiness Group.
The Walk to Afghanistan is a friendly competition between each company within the 864th Engr. Bn to see which company can earn the most miles before the battalion reaches its total goal of 14,000 miles in support of the 864th Engr. Bn. Soldiers who are currently deployed to the Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
Miles are earned through multiple routes to include, but are not limited to, walking, jogging, running, biking, hiking, swimming, and stroller pushing.
Amy Henderson, senior advisor to the 864th Engr. Bn. Family Readiness Group came up with the idea to start a Walk to Afghanistan program in the 864th Engr. Bn.
The first time I heard about Walk to Afghanistan (or Iraq) was during the time we lived in Hawaii. The Walk to Afghanistan is a great way for us to keep motivated, have some competition between companies, and provide a healthy way for our Families to deal with the stress of deployment.
Logging miles is not limited to those living in the Joint Base Lewis McChord area, home station to the 864th Engr. Bn.
In fact, anyone can participate in the Walk to Afghanistan, regardless of where they are living. Submissions for logging miles are coordinated through the Walk to Afghanistan Facebook page, or the Soldiers FRG leader. Participants simply message the Walk to Afghanistan Facebook page or the Soldiers FRG leader to submit the number of miles they wish to log.
Miles are being logged from participants in all corners of the United States.. Loved ones are running in multiple races from Clarkesville, Ga. to JBLM to Waynesville, Mo.
The Magna Vista Girls Track Team from Henry County, Va. is logging miles at each of its practices. One supporter even braved the bitter cold to run a Half Fast 10K near St. Paul, Minn. even though the temperature at the start of the race was a balmy three degrees.
We have a whole lot of love for our Soldiers! We are getting a tremendous amount of support from family and friends all over the U.S.. So often we hear family members ask what can we do? Soldiers always appreciate mail, but giving our soldiers support and encouragement is just as important. Many of our families are posting pictures of the Soldier they are running or walking for. How great to know a whole community, a track team, grandparents, parents, are all walking and logging their miles to support our great Soldiers. Henderson said.
Pictures on the Walk to Afghanistan Facebook page consistently show families walking or hiking together, children logging miles on bikes, or a group of friends bonding together in gyms across the United States. The Walk to Afghanistan is not only a group simply connected through the interwebs of Facebook.
The 864th Engr. Bn. FRG leaders host an event every month for supporters and loved ones living in the area of JBLM to get together and walk or run in the battalion work area.
At each event, loved ones and supporters show up carrying signs covered in well wishes for their deployed Soldiers, the Soldiers name whom they are supporting, and the Soldiers company.
As for the Walk to Afghanistan events at JBLM Henderson said there is a lot of team building at these events and socializing.
The great thing about the Walk to Afghanistan events is that anyone can come out and walk around our Able Field.
This event is geared to everyone. We have balls and jump ropes and outdoor games set up in the middle of Able Field so the children can play while the parents walk the loop and still keep an eye on the children. It takes us five laps to make a mile.
Recent and upcoming walks
The FRG leaders have hosted two successful events since the Walk to Afghanistan group was founded in the beginning of February, the same time the battalion deployed to Afghanistan.
The first event, which took place on Feb. 17, was entitled Walk to Afghanistan-Kickoff Event.
Many families showed up with signs in one hand and dog leashes in the other hand.
A cake was made to commemorate the kick-off event, which challenged each participant to execute ten, military standard push-ups before logging miles.
At the end of the event, a total of 201 miles were logged.
The second event took place on March 17 to celebrate St. Patricks Day.
A week prior to the event and four weeks after the kickoff event, the Walk to Afghanistan had a total number of 3,367.61 miles logged towards the goal of 14,000 miles.
After the success of the St. Patricks Day event, the total was raised to 6,675.41 miles. The spirit of Saint Patricks Day was beaming out of the participants as many of them arrived clothed in green clothing with shamrocks sprouting from every article of clothing.
The United Service Organization supported the Walk to Afghanistan on March 17 by providing grilled food and water for each participant.
The USO is truly amazing and so supportive of our Soldiers and families, Henderson said. The 864th Engr. Bn. Soldiers families and friends continue to support this effort.
As of March 25, the Walk to Afghanistan has logged a total number of 10,765.8 miles.
The next event, entitled Spring Fling Walk to Afghanistan, will take place on April 13 at the 864th Engr. Bn. work area.
For more information on how to participate in the event or how to participate in the Walk to Afghanistan group, check out the Pacemakers-Walk to Afghanistan Facebook page.