A marathon that ends in 500 miles for an epidemic with no obvious end in sight

Street Stories

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A pair of ultra-marathoners are wearing out their sneakers for a potentially painful experience, aimed at soothing pain for veterans and their families.

Joshua Milich makes it sound like a jog in the park.

“Fifty miles a day,” Milich said. “Do it one day, get up the next morning and do it again.”

Joshua and Brian Tjersland have been running together for quite a while, covering 80 to 100 miles a week with New Bedford’s Junk Miles running club.

Upping that game to raise money to help veterans was Milich’s idea.

When Brian suggested starting a run from the Massachusetts National Cemetery to raise awareness and money for the high veteran suicide rate Joshua had another idea.

“He goes, ‘yeah—we should go to the other national cemetery,'” Tjersland recalled. “And there it stuck.”

The Arlington National Cemetery is about 500 miles away.

They’re wrapping up their training and will start running the rubber off their shoes on Veterans’ Day for Mission 22.

“Twenty-two veterans a day take their own life,” Milich said. “Mission 22’s purpose is to bring that down to zero.”

Milich, who’s in the Coast Guard, acknowledges it’ll be grueling. But he says while the run will be difficult, the reason behind it is personal.

“Everyone that I know personally knows someone who’s been affected by suicide, been affected by depression,” he said. “[Veterans] give us so much. They deserve everything we can do to help them.”

As word spread about their “500 Miles to End Veteran Suicide,” a couple of members of Mission 22’s New Bedford chapter came forward to volunteer as their crew.

“They’re both combat veterans and they’ve been volunteering for Mission 22 for several years,” Tjersland said. “Just having them with us means a lot to us.”

Their 11-day trek for Mission 22 will end fittingly around Thanksgiving on Nov. 22.

“The last thing I like to see is for veterans to come home and not get the support that they deserve,” Milich added.

Click here to track their 500 miles of progress »

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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