Airman will run 22 miles to raise awareness for veterans
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A local emergency room nurse and educator will work up a stellar appetite for a Thanksgiving Day feast while raising awareness for veterans contemplating suicide due to the emotional scars they have sustained on the battlefield.
Bill Berlin will run 22 miles with a 22-pound vest on Wednesday, Nov. 22, from downtown Grayling out toward Camp Grayling. He is taking on the task to raise awareness for the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day across the nation due to a lack of mental health treatment and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Berlin works as a registered nurse in the emergency room at Munson Health Grayling Hospital. He is also a part-time instructor at Kirtland Community College’s Health Sciences Center located just south of Grayling.
Berlin, who lives in Merritt, which is located in between Houghton Lake and Lake City, hoped to join the U.S. Air Force Pararescue. The special command and combat operators are tasked with the recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. After learning he would have to retake some of his nursing classes to become accredited, Berlin changed his course.
Berlin earned his associate’s degree from Kirtland Community College and his bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University.
Berlin was commissioned as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Air Force Reserve based out of Niagara Falls, New York, with plans to serve as a flight nurse.
Berlin said it has always been a personal goal to serve in the military.
“I have a pretty strong family attachment to it,” he said.
Berlin was inspired to do a run to raise awareness and funds to highlight the plight of veterans who are taking their own lives a few days after the Las Vegas shooting. On Oct. 1, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured.
Berlin said he was stricken by the following news coverage between the people who were pointing their fingers and others supporting the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and own guns.
Berlin said he came up with the idea for the run while putting on the 22-pound vest, which is like body armor, to go for a hike. He purchased the vest to prepare for some survival training he will go through soon as part of his duties with the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Berlin first pitched the idea to a friend, and then told his fiancée, Alyssa Loney, about his plans, which she thought were doable.
“She jumped right on board and we just started running with it,” he said.
Berlin has run a half-marathon, and has also taken part in a Reebok Ragnar Relay, which involves a team of 12 running a 200-mile course continuously while each person takes a turn running.
“It’s kind of like the canoe marathon, only with running,” said Berlin, who ran 18 miles as part of the relay.
Berlin also has been involved in mixed martial arts fighting for 15 years.
“Most of the stuff I’ve been involved with are 15 minutes or less with my experience in competition,” he said. “This has been kind of a whole new animal.”
Berlin plans to take off from Paddle Hard Brewery, located at 227 E. Michigan Avenue. He will then run to M-72 West, and to M-93 toward Camp Grayling, then will then take a left on Military Road until he reaches 11 miles. He will then make the return trip back into Grayling
“It’s going to take every bit of four hours,” Berlin speculated.
Alyssa will escort Berlin on his run, either on a bicycle or in her Jeep, depending on the weather.
Berlin said he hasn’t contemplated others joining him while he was planning the run.
“I don’t see too many volunteers right off the bat in just a week’s notice,” Berlin said with a laugh.
Berlin will donate the funds he raises to the Reining Liberty Ranch, which is based in Traverse City and provides equine therapy to help veterans with PTSD. Berlin, who was on active duty for several weeks up until mid-August, has not been to Reining Liberty Ranch, but hopes to pay a visit soon.
“I’ve been working, and trying to see family, and planning a wedding, and stuff like that,” he said.
Berlin has established a Go Fund Me account called 22 Too Many, to collect donations. The account can be found at gofundme.com/22-for-22-alweighs-forward.
Sponsors for the run include: Loney Chiropractic Morrison Farms, Rose Tool and Die, ComfortTac, Trigger Boxing, Beechwood Communications, Fit My Life, U.S. Air Force Reserve, Paddle Hard Brewing, R & J’s Best Choice Marketplace and Sova Solutions.
“The response I’ve received from the community has been amazing. I know times are tough up here, but everyone has been so great about pitching in and helping out,” Berlin said. “It’s nice to see that you can do a direct action type of thing and see some results versus just talking about it.”
Paddle Hard Brewing will donate proceeds from a special beer, which will be on tap from Nov. 19 to Nov. 25, called the “22 Miler” to Berlin’s cause.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to donate back to the veterans and help out with the PTSD dilemma here in America,” said Dave Vargo, the owner of Paddle Hard Brewing. “It’s a great opportunity to get involved and try to make a difference.”
An after party following Berlin’s run will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, at Paddle Hard Brewing.
“We wish Bill luck,” Vargo said. “I’m sure 22 miles with 22 pounds is going to be a tough jog, so we look forward to seeing him at the finish line and having a pint with him at Paddle Hard.”
The evening before Thanksgiving is traditionally one the busiest nights for bars and brew pubs, since people from college and those living outside of the community reconnect with friends before spending the holiday with their families.
Berlin said he looks forward to being among the crowd and those supporting veterans.
“It’s going to be a fun time and I appreciate all the support I can get,” he said.
Berlin then plans on taking his spot at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day after he has worked up quite an appetite.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I’m going to be eating on Thursday.”
Berlin will then pack to go back on active duty with the U.S. Air Force Reserve, since he still has to complete survival school, water survival school, flight nurse training, and air medical evacuation training.
“On November 26, I go right back out the door,” Berlin said.
Berlin’s position requires him to serve one weekend a month and two weeks per year. He is subject to be called up for active-duty on a moment’s notice.
“It’s one of those things where if you get the phone call, you have 72 hours to get to base,” Berlin said.