ROCKLAND, Maine — Mike Ehredt has been running marathon lengths every day since May in honor of fallen soldiers. The runner started in Oregon in the spring, and about 4,500 miles later — assuming all goes well — Ehredt’s legs finally can rest on Friday once he touches the Atlantic Ocean in Rockland.
“Mike is a runner, and I think he’s always dreamed about running across the country. I think he would say it was one of his life goals,” said Wally Thrall, project manager of Project America Run. “When I met Mike, he told me it was his dream to run across the country and place a flag every mile for every fallen soldier in Iraq. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this needs to happen.”
And that is exactly what Ehredt of Hope, Idaho, has been doing. The retired U.S. Army veteran runs while pushing a stroller full of American flags in front of him. Once every mile, he bends down to plant one. Each flag bears a fallen soldier’s name, rank, hometown, age and date of death.
Thrall said the run doesn’t have much to do with politics.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re for the wars or against the wars, Democrat or Republican. I think you can agree we lost a lot of great people and a lot of families were deeply hurt,” Thrall said in a phone interview Monday. “This is a very personal tribute Mike is doing. It’s very cool.”
Thrall bought 500 T-shirts that say “Thanks, Mike” on them. They are available in downtown Rockland stores for a donation. Ehredt does not know about the shirts.
“We’ve been leading him to believe there’s not much going on in Rockland. I want to see a sea of bright-colored T-shirts that say ‘Thanks, Mike,’” Thrall said.
Rockland resident and volunteer Mike McNeil will help hand out the shirts Friday.
“It’s amazing to think this guy could run 4,500 miles across the country. It is just insane. They would have to hire a tribe with knives to chase me,” McNeil said.
Ehredt will start the midcoast portion of the run in Union. He should be near Rockland District High School around 10:30 a.m. Friday, and will run down Main Street to Harbor Park. The city will hold a ceremony for him there.
For more information on the run, visit projectamericarun.com.