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A third-generation U.S. Army Ranger and Fort Knox soldier will spend most of February running.
Patrick Kelley, commander of Charlie Company of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Knox, has assembled a team of family and friends around the U.S. to participate in the Run Ranger! Run campaign, a national effort organized by Army Cpl. Corey Smith to bring awareness to the plight soldiers face transitioning from active duty to civilian life in a turbulent economy.
The goal is to assemble teams of as many as ten people to run, walk or bicycle a combined 565 miles during the month of February. As of Thursday, Kelley said he had about seven members for his team, known as Kelley’s Heroes, and was trying to recruit more.
Kelley, who works with transitioning soldiers on a daily basis, said the run is personal for him because he sees how soldiers struggle to find work and return to normalcy once they leave the military. He is not soliciting money but wants to bring awareness to veteran unemployment in the hope that organizations and businesses take notice.
“Really, we’re just trying to get the word out to everybody,” he said.
Smith started the Run Ranger! Run campaign by completing the 565 miles himself last year. Proceeds raised this year will benefit GallantFew Inc., a military non-profit organization started to reduce Ranger veteran unemployment, homelessness and suicide with one-on-one mentoring.
“GallantFew, Inc. coaches them through the transition process; assess their skills, desires and abilities; offers training as necessary; networks them professionally and socially back into the community; and will be a source of physical, social, professional and emotional support,” reads a statement on the GallantFew website. “Initially, we will accomplish this all through volunteers. Ultimately, this program will be funded, staffed and scaled up to include every veteran of every branch of the military.”
Kelley’s team will run individually in their hometowns and cities throughout the U.S. He said the majority of his running will be done during physical training while his wife completes two to three miles per day on her own. Each team member will have to run around three miles per day to meet the goal.
“We have to do a 5K (3.1 miles) a day as a team,” he said.
It was the only Kentucky-based team currently listed on the Run Ranger! Run website.
Kelley has recruited team members in Texas, Bloomington, Ill., and Chicago while one member will pile up mileage during a business trip to India.
Kelley also has lined up sponsors for his team, which each team is encouraged to do. He said Utah-based coffee retailer Lock-n-Load Java has sponsored the team’s shirts and will offer a donation while a sporting goods store in his hometown of Bloomington, Ill., and Connecticut-based Cavalry Brewing Company will enter the names of those who donate to the team into a raffle.
Kelley said the sponsors will include information about Run Ranger! Run on their social networking pages and order websites.
His team has set a financial goal of $10,000 as a lofty height, knowing they would likely not reach it. Kelley said he was just shy of $1,000 as of Thursday.
Because of the distance separating the team, members plans to take individual photographs and combine them in a collage as a keepsake item.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.