By Spc. Reese Von RogatszNovember 26, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division 'Raiders' officially kicked off their Walk to Afghanistan project at Pierce County Fantasy Lights Walk sneak preview Nov. 18, at Spanaway Park in Spanaway, Wash.
"The Walk to Afghanistan program is a common tradition among Army units and is designed for family members near and far," said Jana Johns, a brigade family readiness support assistant.
According to Johns, the intent of the program is to build camaraderie among the families and friends who support the unit. With every step, it is a show of support for soldiers downrange, to honor them and let them know they're in the thoughts of their loved ones.
"The great thing is, anybody can do it," she added, "whether you're a little kid on a bicycle or a grandmother who walks at the mall."
Walking, running, biking, swimming and other organized sporting events may be counted as literal miles or can earn participants one mile for every 10 minutes of sustained physical activity. During the deployment, Raider Run members will engage in a friendly competition to see who can log the most miles for the brigade's Soldiers.
"We currently have 701 participants registered on 54 different teams from all over the country," said Leslie Sorensen, who has volunteered to organize, track and facilitate the project.
According to Sorensen, spouse of a Soldier deployed with 38th Engineer Company, the plan is for everyone to work together toward a common goal of 'walking' 6,981 miles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and back - for a total of 13,962 miles.
One month into the program, the tally stands at 14,530 miles - one round trip complete!
As a certified personal trainer who has a great love of fitness, Sorensen can personally testify to its physical and emotional benefits. Hearing from families and friends about their experiences, thinking about their Soldier as they log miles while working toward personal weight loss or overall health goals, has convinced her that the program is going to make a difference.
"I am honored and excited to be a part of it," Sorensen said.
More than 200 Soldiers, family members, and friends attended the official Raider Run kick-off at Spanaway Park. Normally a driving tour, the Fantasy Lights Walk was a one-night-only event, taking participants on foot through 2.5 miles of animated light displays.
"Through a lot of great teamwork from our Spouses, the brigade FRSAs and agencies in Pierce County government, we were able to attend the Fantasy Lights Walk for free - to encourage Walk to Afghanistan participation and provide holiday spirit for the Raider community," said Lt. Col. Jody Miller, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Raider Ready Reserve commander.
For Starlotte Hernandez, whose husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, the event was a great opportunity to meet with other soldiers' wives.
"It brings comfort and peace of mind knowing that you're not going through this alone," said Hernandez.
Her two-year-old daughter pointed to one of the displays, exclaiming, "Wow, mommy, daddy would like!"
"We miss you and we're counting down the days till you return," said Hernandez in a message to her husband downrange.
The 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. is currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Raider Ready Reserve is organized, equipped and trained to execute Rear Detachment Operations focused on maintaining Soldier, Family, training and equipment readiness that instill confidence in forward deployed commanders.
For information about the 4-2 SBCT Raider Run, please visit: