HARKER HEIGHTS — It’s before 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, and the pervasive Central Texas heat is just beginning to settle in.
But Bridget Carlson is undeterred. For the next nine months, she will hit the trail at Dana Peak Park by 6:30 a.m. every weekday and hike 2 miles. She will resume her trek that evening at a local park, and when the weekend finally rolls around, Carlson will embark upon a more arduous hike, ranging anywhere from 8 to 15 miles.
By the time her husband, Staff Sgt. Jerry Carlson, returns from his nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Bridget Carlson plans to have hiked 1,000 miles in honor of him and his fellow soldiers in the Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
“At first I told them I was going to hike 500 miles, and they said, ‘You’re crazy,’” said Carlson, who lives in Harker Heights. “I said, ‘No, crazy would be 1,000 miles.’”
Needless to say, Carlson wrote a Facebook post announcing her goal of hiking 1,000 miles. Instead of responding with incredulity, many of Carlson’s Facebook friends voiced their desire to join her.
In no time at all, word had spread, invoking the kind of chain reaction only the military network can produce. Carlson started a Facebook page, “Miles for 3CR RSS Soldiers,” and as of Aug. 6, the page had 233 “likes.”
“It’s growing, which is great,” Carlson said. “There are more people every day, and most of them aren’t even military.”
In addition to Carlson’s personal goal of 1,000 miles, there are two new objectives. Because the participants are now scattered across the United States, they have divided into two groups — each with a goal of logging 7,785 miles, the distance from Fort Hood to Afghanistan.
“Walk, run, hike — all miles count, as long as feet are on the ground,” Carlson said.
This particular Tuesday morning, Aug. 5, Carlson was joined by Tammy Hiatt and Teresa Lewellen, whose husbands are in the same squadron as Jerry Carlson. The women’s spouses are different ranks — which, Lewellen said, makes their friendship “unheard of” — but they don’t let it impact their camaraderie.
“Too many women think they wear their husband’s rank,” said Hiatt, of Harker Heights, who is married to a lieutenant colonel.
Both Hiatt and Lewellen hike to support Carlson as well as their husbands, although they don’t always enjoy the early hours or the distance.
“When we’re getting up at 6 a.m., not so much,” said Lewellen, who lives in Kempner and is married to a sergeant first class with the support squadron. “But when we’re done, I feel pretty good.”
Carlson said that while her husband still “thinks I’m crazy,” he is also proud of her. In fact, he plans to gather a group of soldiers in his squadron to compete with his wife’s teams. Who does Carlson think will emerge victorious?
“Oh, we’ll beat them,” she said with a grin.