Mike Ehredt is in Raymond today, a few steps closer to his ultimate destination - Galveston, Texas. On Oct. 19 he passed through Tupelo on his 2,300 mile journey.
Every mile Ehredt places a small America flag on the roadside. A little yellow banner is tied to each flag with the name, hometown, rank and age of a soldier, who lost their life in Afghanistan. He pauses for a moment, salutes the flag and moves on.
“I do it to remember and say thanks,” he said. “It’s my wall.”
This run began at the northern United States border and will end at that Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not the first time Ehredt has done a long distance run. In 2010 he covered over 4,300 miles, from coast to coast, to honor the fallen troops in Iraq. To follow his current run, go to www.projectamericarun.com
“To stay on schedule I have to run approximately 26 miles every day,” he said. “My plan is to complete the run on Veteran’s Day. I don’t take any day off because our soldiers don’t get days off.”
The 51-year-old veteran only wanted to see one thing in Tupelo.
“He wanted to go to Elvis’ birthplace,” Tom Berryhill, a ranger for the Natchez Trace Parkway said. “He also is going to get to see a SEC football game.”
“The only team I wanted to see play was the Bulldogs,” Ehredt said and pulled a maroon Mississippi State cap out of the portable baby stroller, which he pushes. It contains snacks, changes of clothing and the flags.
He spent the night with Berryhill. At the end of the day’s run the ranger will pick Ehredt up at Houston, bring him back, he’ll spend another night and then he’ll be dropped off at the exact spot he quit, to begin again.
“Mississippi has been one of the most receptive states, living up to their motto of being the hospitality state,” he said.
Ehredt has passed through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi thus far.
“The cool weather has followed me,” he said. “At one point I was climbing 94,000 vertical feet. Tennessee was very hilly.”
Just about every day brings a memory or a favorite spot but so far it’s a landmark just off the Trace, Bill Roper told him about. He stayed with the Ropers at their Fall Hollow Campground, in Hohenwald, Tenn.
“It was seeing this enormous wall that one guy built,” Ehredt said.
The huge stone wall is dedicated to Te-lah-nay, an Yuchi Indian. It’s over 12 feet thick and is made of tons of rocks from all 50 states, several countries (143), and one meteorite. The wall supposedly took 27 years to built, and during the course of the construction saw the end of 39 wheelbarrows and three pickup trucks.
It was easy to see why this impressed Ehredt.
“I’ll go through a total of eight pairs of shoes,” he said and smiled. “I’ll put on a new pair about every 10 days.”
Along the way people, with relatives serving in Afghanistan, have joined him walking or jogging as he passed near their home towns. He plans to hang up his shoes once he reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
“It will have taken a long time to do this, 81 days,” he said. “It will take even longer to recall and write about my journey.”
The quiet, confident man turned his buggy south, tipped his cap and headed down the Trace — just another day at the office.