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Walking for the soldiers

PERU – After Billie Schmitz’s son, Cole Williams, was deployed to Afghanistan, she was overwhelmed with friends and acquaintances asking her what they could do to help.

“What is there honestly to do?” she said. “Well, this is something.”

The “something” is called Walk to Afghanistan, and a local walk will take place at 9 a.m. Sunday at Baker Lake in Peru. Friends, family and simple supporters of the servicemen and women serving overseas are asked to come and simply walk.

Peru’s walk is not the only one. The Walk to Afghanistan is a nation-wide program, began by Amy Henderson, a colonel’s wife in Washington State in February.

Schmitz said Henderson started the project as a friendly competition between each company within the 864th Engineer Battalion. People around the country walk, bike or swim for the project, and report their miles to the “Walk to Afghanistan” Facebook page, or to a local family readiness group leader.

Schmitz has been collecting and reporting local miles for awhile, but she was inspired to take additional action when she saw her son’s group, the 557th Engineering Co., was losing the competition.

“I said, ‘I’m not trying hard enough,’” Schmitz said.

So she started asking more and more people to walk or run for the soldiers, and when she got up to 30 to 40, she planned Sunday’s walk.

There is no charge to participate in the walk. Walkers are encouraged to bring signs to show support for the troops. Walkers will also be able to buy a chance to win various prizes with the money gathered saved to send support boxes to the soldiers.

Schmitz said the walk isn’t about money, but simply to support the troops.

“It’s to say, ‘Hey, we’re here, and we’re thinking about you,’” she said.

Pictures of Sunday’s walk will be posted online for the troops to see.

The “Walk to Afghanistan” group was founded in the beginning of February, the same time the battalion deployed to Afghanistan. As of now, the “Walk to Afghanistan” has logged a total number of 55,618.57 miles. Miles will be collected until the end of October.

Williams is formerly of Sheffield and Peru and a 2011 graduate of LaSalle-Peru Township High School.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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