Going the extra mile
SOUTHWEST ASIA — How long does it take you to drive 100 miles in a day, or pedal a bike that distance?
Would you even consider walking or running 100 miles in a day? What if it was to help a friend and his family?
For Tech. Sgt. Wayne Jenderny, of Eyota, the assistant chief of fire training for the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, helping out a fellow firefighter was his reason for running 100 miles in a single day.
Master Sgt. Pete Soergel, a 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard and Pittsburgh, Penn., firefighter, has a daughter, Sharon, who has been diagnosed with a painful nerve disorder. She undergoes extensive physical therapy sessions to retrain the affected nerves and reduce the pain. This comes at a large monetary cost for the family and a major physical cost to Sharon.
"Sharon has a lot of challenges she faces every day, we all do," said Soergel. "But now my daughter knows that there are people all over the world who are thinking about her and praying for her. This has really helped her, especially since her dad's going to be away for six months; and because it's easier for her, it's easier for me."
Soergel was amazed by the 100-mile run, but wasn't surprised that Jenderny was the leader.
"Wayne is a great guy. He always takes up the cause of the person who is getting squashed," said Soergel. "I am still flabbergasted that Wayne did this. I mean, how many people get told that someone is running 100 miles in a day for your daughter?"
For Jenderny, a native of Eyota deployed from the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, it was all about taking care of someone who deserved it.
"A few of us have deployed with Soergel here before, and we know that this deployment will be his hardest time away from home," said Jenderny. "Every time I've deployed with him, he spent all his time taking care of others. He's very humble, and he's also one of the best senior NCOs I have ever met. That's why I wanted to complete 100 miles at once, to raise donations to help them and maybe take away some of the worry he'll have. And even if people only donated a few cents per mile, every mile was going to be worth it because Sharon is worth it."
Sometimes running alone, sometimes running with a buddy and sometimes running with a flock of fellow runners, Jenderny began his 100-mile trek at the stroke of midnight. Through the stillness of early morning, the building heat of the day and the cool breezes of night, Jenderny watched the sun rise, peak and set as he logged mile after mile.
"Very rarely was I alone, even in the middle of the night and in heat of the afternoon, and the support I got gave me strength to keep me going when my body wanted to quit," Jenderny said. "I had a lot of support before, during and after the run. It was awesome that people came out with me, even in the middle of the day when it was in the 90s."
For others in the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, Jenderny's run was a siren's call they couldn't resist.
"When Jenderny first told me about his 100-mile awareness run and the little girl it was benefiting, I knew right away this was something I wanted to take part in," said Master Sgt. Thomas Speranzi, 386th AEW command administrator. "This was something much bigger than myself. This is how we take care of our wingmen … whether they are here or 8,000 miles away. Heat, distance or time isn't a factor as long as we keep the goal in mind."
While the short term goal for Jenderny was the fairly finite 100 miles, which he finished in 22 hours and 39 minutes at 10:39 p.m., the long-term goal was infinitely more rewarding.
"That's what I want Soergel and his family to feel. We want them to know that they're not alone," said Jenderny. "And when he is here, people will meet him and know that he is not just a name, and his daughter is not just a picture in an e-mail — these are real people they will know, a family going through something that will test them every day while Soergel's deployed."