Mike Ehredt has been out of the Army since 1983, but he still lives like a soldier.
Despite running 30 miles from Fonda to Milton on Tuesday, he arrived right on time at 3 p.m.
That punctuality has been his policy since he left the Pacific Coast in Oregon on May 1 — on foot.
Ehredt, 49, of northern Idaho, is running 4,425 miles from Astoria, Ore., to Rockland, Maine, and placing a yellow flag in memory of a soldier who died in Iraq at each mile along the way.
The name, rank, service, age and hometown of each American man and woman are hand-written on each small yellow flag. Ehredt doesn’t tarry as he ceremonially places the flags and taps his GPS to register he’s put one in the earth, then salutes.
“Seven seconds,” he responds without hesitation when asked how long he spends at each mile post. “I’m a stickler for details. That was my goal, was to never fall behind.”
He’s met that goal so far, getting to each day’s destination and staying with the host he set up months in advance.
Using the slogan “One life. One flag. One mile,” Ehredt has run nonstop from the West Coast in Oregon, resting about every 14 days, for one day each time.
All the other days, he’s run about 30 miles a day, covering more than a marathon nearly every day for almost five months. He expects to reach Rockland, Maine, on Oct. 14.
On Tuesday, Ehredt made his way down Route 67 with two other runners, escorted by a Saratoga County sheriff’s cruiser flashing its lights.
He turned into the parking lot at Trieble Park at the intersection of Route 67 and Middleline Road and shook hands with about 20 well-wishers, including Sally Olsen of Galway, who hosted Ehredt Tuesday night.
“I offered our home as one of Mike’s stopping points,” Olsen said.
It took Ehredt nine months of planning to line up hosts and map the route for his journey, dubbed Project America Run. He worked for 200 hours on the computer to draw the route and found hosts by calling chambers of commerce, city halls and American Legion chapters in each town — “pretty much whoever picks up the phone,” he said.
Ehredt spent four years in the Army in Germany and wanted to do a personal tribute to remember servicemen and women who died in Iraq. He’s also a retired postal clerk and now a personal trainer.
“It’s nothing about politics or policy, nothing about a stand on anything,” he said. “I just want to go down the road and put a flag in.”
Ehredt places the flags in reverse chronological order from the person’s death date, in order to see “numbers coming down instead of going up,” he said.
He will place flags for people who died in Iraq since he started his journey — there have been 30 so far — at the end, where he has 40 miles set aside for that purpose.
Ehredt has two grown children; he and his partner live in northern Idaho.
The journey seems superhuman, but Ehredt has done notable physical feats before: in 1996, he rode a bicycle 474 miles in 24 hours to raise $12,000 for muscular dystrophy research; in 2006, he ran 250 miles for the Trans-Himalayan run in Nepal; twice, he finished in the top 150 at the Marathon des Sables six-day race across the Sahara Desert; and two years ago, he became one of 34 people to ever finish the Rocky Mountain Slam, four 100-mile races.
His personal bests for running are 33 minutes 54 seconds in a 10K, two hours and 52 minutes in a marathon and seven hours and 24 minutes for 50 miles.
On this cross-country trip, Ehredt said the Midwest heat was his biggest physical challenge.
A children’s jogging stroller has been his companion the whole way to hold his supplies; it’s on its second set of tires.
“It’s a kids’ stroller, but I took all the kids’ stuff out of it,” Ehredt said.
He’s on his 17th pair of running shoes and has tied the laces from the previous pairs to the stroller handle to mark his progress.
His website, Projectamericarun.com, shows his progress and a blog he updates every few days from the homes he stays in.
Some of the entries are deeply emotional, such as the one written Sept. 16 about his stay with Kathe, a farmer and single mom of three in Willard, Ohio.
During their evening, she asks if he wants to meet her son Keifer.
“Rising from her chair, she leads me to a hutch and Keifer is there, his ashes, in a beautiful mahogany box,” Ehredt wrote.
Kathe goes on to tell him that her son enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was deployed the following summer to die in Iraq — not in combat but by his own hand.
“She had the month of July with her son and then within four days of arriving in Iraq, he was gone. In a bathroom stall he would end his life with a gunshot. In those few short days, he was driven to despair and depression, the result of extreme hazing by four higher-ranking soldiers.”
Ehredt placed a flag for Albany resident Amy Tirador, whom military officials said committed suicide while serving in Iraq, in Oregon near the beginning of his journey.
Other local soldiers who now have flags placed around the country include:
u Nathan P. Brown of South Glens Falls, in West Seneca;
u Thomas D. Robbins of Schenectady, in Skaneateles;
u Dominic J. Sacko of Albany, in Nebraska;
u David M. Fisher of Watervliet, in Illinois; and
u Timothy J. Moshier of Delmar, in Colorado.
On Tuesday, Republican congressional candidate Chris Gibson joined Ehredt on five miles of his journey along Route 67, starting in West Charlton. Gibson served four tours of duty in Iraq and spent 24 years in the Army, rising to the rank of colonel and retiring this year.
Project Run America is halfway to its $200,000 fundraising goal, and the money will be used to cover the costs of staging the event and fund private rehabilitation programs for disabled veterans who are back home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonprofit group Honoring Our Veterans is the main sponsor. Donations can be made at Project Run America’s website.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Schenectady County