While training for a half-marathon in 2011, two friends from Millen, Ga. – Ray Miller and Randy Brannen – tossed around some ideas on how they could help wounded veterans in the region at the same time.
First, they said they thought about starting small with a run to Augusta, but after seeing a TV commercial for the national Wounded Warrior Project, they decided to do a 250-mile relay fundraiser across Georgia from Fort Benning to Fort Gordon.
Last year, the effort raised $4,123 for Wounded Warrior, Fort Gordon Warrior Transition Battalion and the Fisher House Foundation – and there’s no letup in sight.
For the second year in a row, the group, which now consists of six runners, has been approved to raise money for three organizations and plans to jog cross-state again from Feb. 27 through March 2. Their goal: Bring awareness to injuries that soldiers endure in defense of American freedom.
“What we’re doing is really a drop in the bucket,” said Miller, a veteran of the Air Force in the late 1960s and early 1970s who serves as the assistant headmaster at Edmund Burke Academy in Waynesboro. “We were uncomfortable for four days, but the people who were injured fighting for our country are going be uncomfortable for the rest of their lives.”
Last year’s relay was described as joyous philanthropy that unified Georgia veterans and military families for four days.
During the run, participants visited with a Vietnam War veteran in Montezuma and were treated to a pig-picking at a town church in Dublin, Ga. While there, a motorcycle escort led them to a nearby Cracker Barrel, where they received gift baskets and complimentary meals.
And in Emanuel, Burke and Jenkins counties, public safety officers, churches, advocacy groups and veterans lined the streets to hand them snacks, refreshments and donations.
“We were just amazed at the number of people who stop, talk to us and made donations,” Miller said.
He said that this year the group, which has run together for 20-plus years, is preparing for practice runs to Statesboro.
When the relay starts, each runner will jog three miles and then be taken in a van nine miles for the next baton-passing, Miller said. The group will average about 62 miles a day, with each runner logging between 16 and 18 miles, he said.
“The first day will be longest, at 70 miles, when we’re fresh and excited,” he said. “We’re very excited to return to the roads.”
Advance donations may be mailed to Benning to Gordon Relay, Queensborough Bank of Millen, P.O. Box 780, Millen, Ga. 30442.
For credit card donations, call Dee Dee Miller-Goodwin at (360) 860-0136. You may also find out more about the training and relay on the team’s Facebook page by searching “Benning to Gordon Relay.”