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Air Force retiree Frank Miller at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Miller has walked more than 56,000 kilometers (33,600 miles) in 25 years at marches throughout Europe.

Air Force retiree Frank Miller at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Miller has walked more than 56,000 kilometers (33,600 miles) in 25 years at marches throughout Europe. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

Air Force retiree Frank Miller at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Miller has walked more than 56,000 kilometers (33,600 miles) in 25 years at marches throughout Europe.

Air Force retiree Frank Miller at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Miller has walked more than 56,000 kilometers (33,600 miles) in 25 years at marches throughout Europe. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

Frank Miller shows off the back of his jacket bearing patches from the numerous walks he's completed throughout Europe.

Frank Miller shows off the back of his jacket bearing patches from the numerous walks he's completed throughout Europe. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — The patches on Frank Miller’s prized jacket show he has a track record that is hard to match.

In 25 years, the 68-year-old Air Force retiree has walked more than 57,000 kilometers — about 35,300 miles — and has the patches to prove it. There is one for every 100 kilometer march he has made and there is barely enough room on his jacket to stitch on another one. He has finished 48 100-kilometer noncompetitive walks, known as volksmarching in Europe.

Every walk he has entered, he has finished.

“I tell everyone it’s a breeze,” Miller said. “But it’s not. Everything seems against ya.”

That doesn’t mean he has any desire of quitting. He would do more organized volksmarches if they had them.

Miller, who worked on airplanes and calibrated testing equipment during his career in the Air Force as a technical sergeant, began walking shortly after retiring and has been an avid walker ever since.

He used to run five miles a day.

“I basically did that the first four of the five years I was here after I retired until I realized they had all these volksmarches where I could go out and get official recognition,” said Miller, who works at the Burger King on base. “So, then I said, ‘The hell with running. There’s no future in that.’ So, I started walking.”

Volksmarching associations often offer pins, patches and other awards for those who complete the path. Miller, who once did a 150-kilometer walk in Belgium, said he continues to walk because of the many people he meets. He is a member of the Eifel Wanderers, a volksmarching club on base.

Most airmen on base know Miller from seeing him walk twice a week from his home in Bitburg to Spangdahlem — a distance of about 8 miles. Some motorists wave or honk their horn.

“One guy the first time I walked home he went by me and tooted the horn,” he said. “And then he came back a little while later and he says, ‘I didn’t realize you might need a ride out here.’ I said, ‘No, I’m out here to walk.’”

His passion for walking is infectious.

He turned Tech. Sgt. James Lopez and wife, Jennifer, on to volksmarching after they met him on base.

James Lopez said Miller’s stamina is inspiring.

“He’s unbelievable,” he said “You show me another person his age who can walk like him.”

Miller typically walks carrying an American flag. He has no secret to how to survive the long treks, but his tip for avoiding blisters is slipping moleskin on the soles of his feet before hitting the pavement.

He also is known to drink a couple of beers before embarking on a 100-kilometer Volksmarch.

“The man can drink beer and walk,” Lopez said, laughing. “I think it’s fuel for him.”

Miller’s goal is to walk the four-day Nijmegen Volksmarch in the Netherlands at 92. The walk is divided into four separate 50-kilometer walks and attracts tens of thousands of people.

“Now, I might have to cut back and do the 30 but what the hell,” he said.

Of course, by that time, he might have to get another jacket to find a place to sew on that monumental patch.


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