Six months ago U.S. Navy combat veteran Chris Ring entered the shallow waters of the Mississippi Headwaters at Itasca State Park for the Legacies Alive Swim for Their Sacrifice with the goal of swimming the entire river to the Gulf of Mexico. A daunting physical task to honor fallen heroes and raise awareness for their Gold Star Families. On Friday, Ring swam the final 13 miles and became the first American to swim the length of the Mississippi – 181 days and 2,350 miles crossing through 10 states from Minnesota to Louisiana. The town furtherest south Ring passed through is Venice, Louisiana. The actual swim will end at mile marker 0, which is 8 miles south of Venice and can only be accessed via boat.
The Swim for Their Sacrifice started Saturday, June 6 at the Headwaters. Ring and the Legacies Alive group first held a barbecue meet and greet the day before at the All Veterans Memorial in Park Rapids. Sam and Caren Smith who own Lake Itasca Sports Boat and Bike Rental at Itasca State Park helped with the start of the swim. Legacies Alive organizers credit the Smiths with providing equipment, access, food, shelter and recommendations for the first few days of the swim in Minnesota. The Smiths joined back up with the Legacies Alive team about a month ago and assisted in daily operations. Sam captained the boat, manned the escort kayak and helped in several other ways. Caren provided homecooked meals that have improved Chris’ health throughout the tail end of the journey, according to Legacies Alive organizers. The day before embarking on the swim back in June,
Ring was in Park Rapids and commented: “This is something any true American patriot would be drawn to – supporting our fallen heroes, keeping their legacies alive and supporting the families they left behind.” Swim For Their Sacrifice is not so much about the swim itself but about the families Legacies Alive honors. “I’m not trying to set a record. I’m not trying to be the fastest person,” Ring said during the Park Rapids visit in June. “It’s just more to connect and unite as many families as possible.” Legacies Alive has a large group at the finish of the swim consisting of members of the organization, friends and family of Chris Ring and Gold Star Families from at least eight states that will be there to witness the historic feat.
The group will also attend the Army/Navy football game Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. The weekend event includes the 2nd Annual Walk To Remember - a 2 kilometer walk to the stadium, 1 kilometer each for former Army quarterback Chase Prasnicki and former Navy quarterback JP Blecksmith, both who were killed in the global war on terror. Swim for Their Sacrifice is impressive to say the least. And it started in our backyard at Itasca State Park with local individuals and organizations helping Chris Ring with this historic swim. It’s a great way to raise awareness for the Gold Star Families who have sacrificed for this country. People and places like Park Rapids along the Mississippi River should be proud to contribute to the cause.