By Debbie Gregory.
On the frontlines of Iraq, Brian White doesn’t get a day off. So when Vivian White doesn’t feel like running, all she has to remember is that her son is still marching. She ties on her sneakers and heads out the door.
So far, her determination to run 6,500 miles, the distance between her front door and her son’s bunk in the combat zone, has helped her log over 1,000 miles. Since news of her quest spread, friends and strangers have begun running as well, adding their miles to her total. Now, 300 people in 42 states are walking and running to help Vivian meet her goal. Together they have logged 14,867 miles. The amount is staggering.
Army mom Tammy Utley drove half a day to cheer on Vivian, a woman she didn’t know at the time, but whom she understood. “There’s nothing you can do for them,” Tammy said. “You can’t be there with them. Mothers understand that helplessness you feel.” Tammy’s son, Nick, is a New York National Guard driver in Afghanistan.
The women both worry when they see news reports of new blasts or attacks. They worry about the prospect of coming home to find a chaplain at their door. They worry if they will ever see their sons again. “At those times,” Tammy sighs, “when there’s nothing else you can do, you start walking or running. We are protecting our emotions, protecting how we feel, because we can’t protect our kids over there.”
In one letter home, Nick described the rocket propelled grenades that hit the side of his truck. Tammy laced up her shoes. When the women walk, they are able to physically flush out the fear that has built up inside. “Those were the bloody-shoes days,” she said. “You walk and you walk and you walk.”
But both women said they will keep walking until every service member is home. For Vivian, the dream of homecoming means running her last mile with her son by her side. “He told me once, ‘Mom, it’s not me that determines the outcome of your race. It’s you.’”