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Family members and friends of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, have been participating in the Miles to Afghanistan program since December 2011. Participants earn miles through physical activities and use this chart to convert their exercises into miles. The competition is between the battalion’s company’s family members and friends. The first company to reach 14,400 miles, the round trip distance from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Afghanistan, wins a welcome home pizza party for the troops when then they come back.

Photo by Courtesy Graphic

2/9 supporters exercise from Lejeune to Afghanistan and back

28 Feb 2012 | Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

Family members and friends of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, have been doing some exercise lately and it’s enough to go to Afghanistan and back—which is exactly what they are trying to do.

In December of 2010, Lindsay Pratt-Bluemle, spouse of Staff Sgt. Daniel Bluemle, an infantry unit leader with Weapons Company, 2/9, started looking at different ways family members and friends could get involved and support the unit while they’re deployed to Afghanistan. After talking it over with the unit and several other spouses, Miles to Afghanistan was born.

The program is a competition between the battalion’s company’s family members and friends. The main goal is for each of the company’s supporters to collectively earn 14,440 miles through exercise and physical activity. The number of miles they are trying to reach is no coincidence, which roughly equals the round trip distance from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to where the unit is currently serving in Afghanistan. The company to first hit the milestone will receive a special welcome home pizza party with other gifts.

Pratt-Bluemle said she wanted a way to give everyone who was associated with the Marines and sailors an opportunity to get involved and support the troops.

“A lot of the time family events revolve around spouses and immediate family,” said Pratt-Bluemle. “So the idea behind Miles to Afghanistan is that you don’t have to be a spouse, you can be a friend, cousin and you can live anywhere. It’s meant to engage all of our family members and help them do something so they can support our guys.”

The miles can be accumulated through any type of intentional physical activity. For instance walking from your car to your office desk doesn’t count. Pratt-Bluemle said the wide range of activities people are participating in to earn miles is amazing.

“People can do different types of things to earn miles,” said Pratt-Bluemle. “We have people running marathons, doing Zumba; we even have a guy who is walking from Colorado all the way to North Carolina. The main emphasis is we didn’t want people getting credit for doing things like house work or just your everyday walking from here to there.”

Melissa Moore, spouse of Sgt. Ryan Moore, Weapons Company, 2/9, said that each company has a MTA representative and that each week the miles are emailed in so they can be tallied up. She said that it’s not just the miles that are getting bigger in number, but the following as well.

“It amazing and I am thrilled that we have more participators than we anticipated,” said Moore. “We started out with 300 in the first couple of weeks and to triple that amount within nine weeks to 955—it’s wonderful.”

One of the things Pratt-Bluemle said was most rewarding about the program was being able to connect people with the battalion who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to participate in unit functions—just based off of where they live. Each week she receives emails from family members and friends who share their stories with her and show their support for the unit.

“It’s amazing to hear the familys' stories as they’re participating in the program,” said Pratt-Bluemle. “I remember one email I got where they were telling me they wanted to stop after one mile and how it was really cold with three feet of snow on the ground, but they said they wanted to keep going for Echo Company. That was just so cool to me. She did six miles in the snow that day because she wanted to continue going and really show her support for the company and her Marine.”

Pratt-Bluemle wouldn’t reveal who was in the lead and said it was going to be kept a secret till the end. She did say that between all of the companies the participants have been giving it their all and wanted to thank everyone for getting involved.

“It’s really been a word of mouth program,” said Pratt-Bluemle. “We sent out rosters and emails and we encouraged people to continue talking about it so family members and friends that we might not have contact with could find out about it.”

“Right now we’re sitting at about 80,000 miles between all of the companies, which is about five and a half trips from here to Afghanistan and back. It’s amazing; our family members are just amazing,” said Pratt-Bluemle.