ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Imagine running seven half-marathons, seven days in a row. Now, add 90-degree heat and a 22-pound vest.
For most, it’s an impossible venture, but one group of 12 men say it's a small feat compared to what service members have sacrificed to ensure our liberty.
“We have the freedom to gather here today to make this final run because of those who have died,” said Travis Ellis, co-founder of Shepherd’s Men.
A crowd welcomed Shepherd's Men with cheers as they completed their 95th mile in a week-long mission aimed at decreasing the number of veteran suicides.
Walter Marques' friend was one of more than 6,000 veterans who took their life in 2009.
"A lot of veterans go to war, and when they come back, they're still fighting the war, an internal war,” said Marques, who is currently serving in the Marine Corps. “And our group runs so they have an outlet, an outlet at the Shepherd's Center to get the care they absolutely deserve."
The group name is inspired by a program out of the Shepherd Center that provides free treatment for veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Army veteran, Allan Sweat, was injured by multiple IED blasts in Iraq. He called the program life-changing and told Fox 5 he was humbled to join the runners for the final leg of their seven-day fundraising effort.
"Overall, my life has improved drastically,” Sweat said. “It happened at the right moment in time, it happened when I needed it most."
Shepherd's Men raise money at events throughout the year, setting a goal of $1.2 million annually. The group hit $500,000 just from this week of runs.
Learn more about Shepherd’s Men and their mission here.