Idaho’s Mike Ehredt will stop in Manlius during 16-state run, from Oregon to Maine
This May, Idaho runner Mike Ehredt will set out on his solo journey across the United States and place a flag down each mile to honor the soldiers that lost their lives in the Iraq War. Better known as Project America Run, the 4,700 mile trek will take Ehredt right through Manlius on Sept. 23.
The coast-to-coast project began three years ago, when Ehredt was inspired to create a memorial for the fallen soldiers after seeing countless photographs and biographies in the local newspapers. After retiring from his job as a postal service clerk, the plan to place flags in reverse chronological order for the 4,375 fallen soldiers – across 16 states in 157 days was put into motion.
“The concept wasn’t beyond possibility, so I decided to help him out,” said Wally Thrall, project manager for Project America Run. “It’s not a political statement by any means. It’s a way to raise awareness of the high cost of lives lost across the country.”
Each flag will have a yellow ribbon attached, stating the fatality number, name, age, rank and the soldier’s hometown. Those that die while Ehredt is running will be added after the flag for the second fatality. The remaining flags will be left blank to honor the soldiers that died in Afghanistan, and the last flag placed at the waterfront will symbolize the first soldier to lose their life in Iraq.
Project America Run will take Ehredt on all secondary roads from Hammond, Oregon, to Rockland, Maine, approximately 30 miles each day. He will travel alone, with only a baby carriage to hold his rations and flags, pepper spray, a tracking beacon and his iPhone, despite advice from family and friends to bring along a support crew.
“It takes the purity and adventure out, traveling and meeting new people and relying on others’ generosity, if you have a crew following you the whole way,” he said. “I will keep everyone updated on my status through photos and blog entries from my iPhone, though.”
With Thrall’s help, Ehredt has been able to find hosts in nearly 90 percent of the towns where he will be spending the night. Hosts will receive packets about what to expect when putting Ehredt up in their homes, especially in terms of meals: he must consume 8,000 to 10,000 calories each day to maintain his energy, since he also expects to burn 10,000 calories each day. Supply packages with 300 more flags, clothing and the occasional new pair of sneakers will be sent ahead to specified hosts every 10 days. In Manlius, Patty Griffo has volunteered to host Ehredt while he is in town.
“It’s exciting that Manlius gets to participate in the project,” said Marc Baum, president of the Greater Manlius Chamber of Commerce. “Ehredt seems very committed to the run, so I definitely believe he’ll be able to finish it.”
While the chamber would like to host some sort of reception to welcome Ehredt, no plans have been finalized to date.
To donate to Project America Run or to track Ehredt’s progress, visit projectamericarun.com. A portion of the proceeds goes to Honoring Our Veterans, the non-profit organization based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Caitlin Donnelly is a regular contributing writer for the Eagle Bulletin.