JBLM's 'Walk to Afghanistan' healthy way to honor Soldiers' service
February 24, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- In a show of support for the Soldiers of 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division currently deployed to Afghanistan, family readiness groups are planning to walk locally 6,750 miles, the distance between Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Afghanistan, before the brigade returns later this year.
"This is something we can do together," Caroline Webster, brigade adviser and wife of Arrowhead Brigade Commander Col. Charles Webster, Jr., said. "You can send care packages and letters, but this is a way to honor them on a daily basis."
Since the distance translates to a hefty 18 miles per day, the brigade established activities that translate into miles, like attending FRG meetings, volunteering, saving money and for children, getting good grades or doing chores around the house. For instance, volunteering equates to 25 miles and saving $100 is 10 miles. Family members are encouraged to track their miles in a log book created and sent out through the FRGs. Over time the miles walked, and earned, will hopefully add up to 6,750 miles.
"It's something anyone can do anywhere," Webster said. She added that her daughter is walking with her fellow cadets at West Point and her mother is walking with her church in Virginia.
Thanks to equivalence miles, family members of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment have already met the goal of collectively walking to Afghanistan. Spouses and children at JBLM have met at local parks to log miles, while mothers in other states have formed their own walking groups to show their support.
"The moms who are walking for their sons really touch my heart," Jennifer Soika, 5-20 Inf. FRG adviser and wife of battalion commander Lt. Col. Steven J. Soika, said. "I can tell from their enthusiasm about logging those miles, that it is a meaningful way for them to feel connected to their child while they are gone."
The first brigade-wide event was Feb. 15 at Cowan Stadium. Soldiers from 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Headquarters Company joined the Family members in lieu of morning PT.
"This is great, it gets spouses and Soldiers out to accomplish their shared goals," Sgt. 1st Class Cory Hawbaker said.
Spouses ran and walked around the track together, some with their small children in tow in their stroller. While not all of the Soldiers have deployed yet, spouses still came out to support those who are downrange.
"Just because (my husband) is here doesn't mean that I don't think about them all the time," Chrissy McKinnon said.
Individual battalion FRGs are planning their own events throughout the deployment, but Webster hopes to have events every quarter.
"We are trying not to make it a competition, but more of a team building event. It is also a great way to encourage positive, healthy living," Webster said.
McKinnon and other spouses at the event enjoy the chance to get to meet other Family members from the brigade.
"It makes you feel more connected to the Soldiers being with others going through the same thing," McKinnon said.
Carlene Joseph, Association of United States Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis Chapter president, joined the Families at the walk. The group has supported 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. for two years and are currently raising money for a welcome home party for the brigade.
"We hope to raise $50,000 for the welcome home picnic," Joseph said. "Some of that money will also go to the single Soldiers to provide snacks, razors, shower curtains and other items for their barracks when they get home."
The AUSA sub-chapter in Lacey is partnered with 3rd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. and has hosted welcome home parties for past deployments and donated turkeys and hams to Families during the holidays. Webster hopes to do future events in Lacey to continue the brigade relationship with the city.
Soika is touched by the overwhelming response she's gotten from Family members for the program. And while 5-20 Inf. has technically walked the distance, they plan on walking until their Soldiers' return.
"It is more than just walking," she said. "It is getting out and doing something positive for ourselves, while we honor the service of our spouses."