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Dressed for the morning chill, 1st Infantry Division spouses Michelle Batiste and Sandy Kamena start out on their daily walk around Leighton Barracks in Würzburg, Germany, as part of the "Walk to Iraq and Back" program.
Dressed for the morning chill, 1st Infantry Division spouses Michelle Batiste and Sandy Kamena start out on their daily walk around Leighton Barracks in Würzburg, Germany, as part of the "Walk to Iraq and Back" program. (Courtesy U.S. Army Hospital, Würzburg)

Hundreds of family members in 1st Infantry Division communities are lacing up their walking shoes, setting their pedometers and taking to the streets.

All the activity is part of Walk to Iraq and Back, a program to motivate families of deployed soldiers to get out and exercise.

In keeping with the 1st ID’s one-year deployment, the Walk to Iraq and Back program is also a yearlong undertaking. Participants are encouraged to collectively complete the 4,000-mile round-trip to make it more attainable and to encourage camaraderie.

The program officially began March 1. However, interested participants can still sign up by contacting their unit’s family readiness group. So far, more than 500 spouses, children and other community members have signed up.

“The idea is that you get seven or more people together,” said Scott Hamilton, 1st ID family readiness liaison and a Walk to Iraq and Back coordinator.

If one person were to try to walk the 4,000 miles, they would have to average nearly 11 miles a day for 365 days.

“We realize that 4,000 miles is dang near impossible,” said Hamilton. That’s why the program is using the total miles walked for each group.

At Ansbach Elementary School, an enlarged map of Europe and the Middle East hangs in the cafeteria, charting the school’s mileage to Iraq. So far, students have figuratively reached Turkey, or about 1,200 miles.

Third-grade teacher Christina Gaylor began the program as a personal goal since her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Corey Gaylor, of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, deployed eight weeks ago.

“So many of our parents have left and, overall, it’s given our school a feeling of camaraderie that we’re all moving toward a common goal,” she said.

Students walk laps around the high school track at recess, said Gaylor, whose class of 20 students includes 11 with deployed parents.

“Every time I send my husband an e-mail or write him a letter, I’m always telling him, ‘I’m this many miles closer to you,’” she said.

“This is one way that I can feel like I’m still connected to him.”

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