Navy veteran swimming the Mississippi River to honor fallen comrades

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Veteran Swims Mississippi River to Honor Fallen Soldiers

Navy combat veteran Chris Ring says some people call him crazy for attempting to become the first American to swim the length of the Mississippi River.

But the 28-year-old Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan contends the extreme endeavor is worthwhile if it helps keep alive the memories of the country's fallen service members and the sacrifices of their families.

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"We all have what we have today because of these families and their loved ones," Ring said last week after finishing up a day's swim just south of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

See photos of his incredible journey:

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Veteran swims entire length of Mississippi for fallen comrades
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Navy veteran swimming the Mississippi River to honor fallen comrades
As your enjoy your Holiday Weekend don't forget to keep cheering for Chris! He continues to Swim For Their Sacrifice down the Mississippi River to honor America's Gold Star Families. Have a great 4th of July! #america #keepswimming #july4th #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #mississippiriver #sfts
Chris got off to a late start yesterday because he had the pleasure to meet and spend time with 4 Gold Star Families. Mr. & Mrs. Cauley, Mr. & Mrs. McElveen, Mr. Smith, and Mr. & Mrs. Manea. All families signed Chris' escort kayak with their Fallen Soldiers name. Who better to keep Chris protected and help guide him as he makes his way down the Mighty Missipp. #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #fallenheroes #family #protection #honor
Hey, when a radio station wants to interview you, you "pull over" and take the call. #mississippiriver #swimfortheirsacrifice #legaciesalive #interview
#tbt to the day Chris swam through this craziness. No big deal!! Just another day as he kept Swimming For Their Sacrifice... #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #sfts #mississippiriver
The swim never seems so bad when lovely ladies like these are waiting to greet and cheer you on! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #mississippiriver #jointheteam
After a long 10 mile swim down the middle of the Mississippi River in which you are battling high waves, no currents, and constant back winds ... a boat ride and tow back to shore are the perfect lifesaver! Tomorrow the team will pick up right where they left off. #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #sfts #needalift #mississippiriver
Only one more day and the team will cross the Iowa border!!! Also so thrilled to have Navy Veterans Ben and Sarah join the team for the next week. Ben served with Chris and Sarah is a United States Naval Academy Graduate. Can't forget to thank the La Crosse Dive Unit for escorting the team down the river yesterday. It's a good run on the Mighty Mississippi!!! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #mississippiriver #friends #sfts
See you at the Crossroads!! Thank you Minnesota ....Thank you for the support, the wonderful people, and thank you for an incredible first 1/3 of the journey! Day 61 and new states are today's agenda!! Today's swim is dedicated to the anniversary of the 38 men who were killed in Afghanistan 4 years ago onboard "Extortion 17." Today Chris will swim his 17kms in their honor. #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #crossroads #keepswimming #mississippiriver
Yesterday was a great day on the Mississippi ... Several Gold Star Families were at the finish to greet the team. Thanks to Michael Freeman for the pics. Day 76 is underway and will wrap up at Lindsey Boat Club and Marina, Davenport, IA!! Happy Friday everyone! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #mississippiriver #iowa
πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Have an awesome weekend everyone!! Chris finished another day on the Mississipp' swimming in honor of our Fallen Heroes and the Gold Star Families they have left behind. #swimfortheirsacrifice #legaciesalive #goldstarfamily #mississippiriver #sfts
HUGE milestone accomplished today! Chris has officially surpassed the 1,000 mile mark on his swim down the Mississippi River!! Thank you to everyone for all of your support! Legacy Challenges and building memorial projects are made possible through your generous donations. Help us keep the Legacies of our Fallen Heroes Alive and support our Gold Star Families by donating! Go to www.legaciesalive.com to donate. Let's keep the momentum going!! THANK YOU! Missouri here we come!! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #donate #mississippiriver #1000 #keepswimming #jointheteam #goldstarfamilies
Boy oh boy what a difference 100 days makes!!! Looking good Chris!! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #beard #manly #100days #mississippiriver
Should be an exciting weekend as Chris closes in on St. Louis, MO! Go to our Facebook page for daily updates. Also please send Chris and the team your positive vibes.... They are approaching one of the most dangerous parts of the river. If you're in the area come out and cheer the team on! Happy Friday! πŸ™πŸΌπŸŠπŸΌπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ #legaciesalive #mississippiriver #swimfortheirsacrifice #stlouis #meetmeinstlouis #sfts
Under 400 Miles left on the Swim For Their Sacrifice Legacy Challenge. I don't know about you, but the weather is certainly excited! "I don't think the hard stuff is going to come down for quite some time... I'd keep playing." 😁πŸŒͺπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ™πŸΌ #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #sfts #mississippiriver #funnel #caddyshack
Chris is back in the water today after taking a rest day yesterday to spend time with his family. There were a few set backs over the weekend (flat tire and unstable boat ramps), but with new team member Rob arriving this weekend things are looking good today!! Back to work fellas! #legaciesalive #swimfortheirsacrifice #sfts #mississippiriver
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Ring said he pitched the idea of the swim to the Legacies Alive nonprofit organization after learning many Americans were unaware of what it meant to be a Gold Star family, the designation given to those whose loved ones were killed in combat.

He began the journey, which Legacies Alive said will cover 2,552 miles, at Lake Itasca in Minnesota on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of Allied soldiers were killed or wounded during the 1944 invasion in northern France that helped bring about the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Averaging 6.5 hours in the water and 14 miles a day, Ring aims to reach the 0-mile marker where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico in early December.

Ring has visited along the way with hundreds of people who lost family members to war and has encouraged them to sign the kayaks used by the team accompanying him on the swim.

At a recent stop, Jenny Smith of Brandon, Mississippi added the name of her son, Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Rogers, to a boat. Rogers, 28, was killed by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011.

Smith said she was encouraged by Ring's effort, noting she fears that families like hers will be forgotten.

"To be a part of a Gold Star family is something you don't ever want to be a part of but you're so proud, too, because you're part of a group of people who understand and support you," Smith said.

Rough weather has delayed Ring's swim a few times. But otherwise he has pushed through sickness, exhaustion and a shoulder injury, said Nicole Parke, spokeswoman for Legacies Alive, which is funding Ring's challenge and also raises money to erect memorials to fallen service members in their hometowns.

"To him, that sacrifice is nothing compared to what these families have gone through," she said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)

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