Seen one at a time, they won't look like much: small American flags on wooden sticks, punched into the shoulder of a road, exactly one mile apart.
But the sum total of Army veteran and ultra runner Mike Ehredt's coast-to-coast journey to honor U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq — every singe one of them — will have an unusual power. The idea is, Ehredt says, to represent an unbroken chain of American military men and women, who gave their lives in service, linked arm-in-arm across the entire nation.
He is in his second week of unspooling the memorial behind him. He began running at the Pacific Ocean near Warrenton, Ore., on May 1, has traveled the length of the Columbia Gorge and will cross north of the Snake River to reach the edge of Palouse Country Friday, stopping at LaCrosse. Ehredt takes the first of his scheduled rest days Saturday but then spends most of a week chugging through our area — Colfax on Sunday, Plummer on Monday, then Athol, Sandpoint and Clark Fork.
His quest isn't getting a ton of media attention, but nearly 2,000 people have befriended Project America Run's Facebook page. Often, leaving deeply personal messages such as this:---
"My name is Violet Kaylor. I am Gold Star Mother of Cpl. Jon-Erik Loney. His no. is 2881. Is there anyway that I can get details of mile 2881. I would like to be there. This is such a wonderful thing that you are doing!! Only the other mothers can know what this means. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!"
Or this from Jolaina Falkenstein:
"Hi Mike, you don't know me, but I was invited to join this group by a friend. I, too, am a veteran and have lost a Soldier in the Iraq war. I am completely speechless at this amazing act you are doing in honor of all of our fallen comrades."
The entire student body of a high school in Battleground, Wash., turned out to line the street as Ehredt cruised by.
He runs anywhere from 26 to 34 miles a day, so Ehredt's blogging can be sporadic, but on Mother's Day, the eighth day of his journey, Ehredt reflects on the first week:
"Lots of company this week! Thanks Wally...another 26 for you! Peggy joined me yesterday and with apple pie all the way from Hope!! Thanks Kari for 8 miles!!! Highlights....hmmmm....lost a crown, found a PFD, $1.03 in change, a swiss army knife, 2 hubcaps, a sofa cushion, a car seat....To the 600 plus kids who lined the street in Battleground...I was wowed! Hosts have been so sincere and warm and gracious and its because of them I have not lost any weight!!!!! Each day has been unique and special and I thoroughly honored to carry these flags and see this country......rollin on..."
A few days earlier he wrote: "Each flag has seen a hand pushing me forward to the next."
Visit Project America Run either on Facebook or online. Under the Locate A Flag tab on his website, Ehredt activates a GPS link to each flag he places in memory of a soldier. Click any of the live links to get the soldier's name, then visit the website for the International Coalition Casualty Count for U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq or just google the name to read more about the individual soldiers — where they are from, how old they were, how they died, comments made about them from family and friends. Ehredt's journey in this way becomes a powerful war memorial.