A local Kentucky Air National Guardsmen set out from Louisville at the beginning of last week with the goal of walking to Morehead in memory of a friend and solider who was killed in the War on Terror.
Captain Nathan Tingle, a Rowan County native, made the 140-mile trip last week along US 60 wearing a rucksack weighing about 50 pounds.
The week-long experience is in memory of Navy SEAL Collin Thomas, a childhood friend and fraternity brother, who died Aug. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan.
The five-day trek led him from a Louisville bar, the last place Tingle saw Thomas, to Eagle Trace Golf Course, the location of the annual Collin Thomas Golf Scramble.
I want to spread Collin’s name, share his story, and keep his legacy alive,” Tingle said. “At the same time, I hope to raise awareness and funds for the Special Operation Warrior Foundation.”
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation ensures full financial assistance for a post-secondary degree from an accredited two or four-year college, university, technical, or trade school; and offers family and educational counseling, including in-home tutoring, to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation also provides immediate financial assistance to severely wounded and hospitalized special operations personnel.
“The groups send money to the family to pay for travel expenses to the hospital or whatever the need is,” he said. “It also completely covers the college expense for their kids. There have been so many that have left families behind and this is something to give back to them. It’s a big investment in their future and it keeps the soldier’s legacy alive.”
Tingle has a fundraiser set up at www.firstgiving.com under “Ruck for Collin.”
In just about a week of fundraising this year, Tingle helped raise about $6,000.
This is the third year since 2014 Tingle has made the ruck and more than $25,000 has been raised in Thomas’ honor.
“This is something close to my heart. I know if I were to be killed that my kids would have a free education,” said Tingle. “I’ve had interactions with this group and more than 95 cents of every dollar raised goes straight back to the families. There is very little overhead. They make the families that have lost a loved feel and know that they aren’t forgotten.”
Tingle spent nights in an RV driven by his father, Dr. Charles Tingle.
This year, the captain said he had quite a bit of swelling and pain in the arches of his feet. He made it only 40 miles before he had to switch shoes.
“I tried not to walk too late into the evening just because it gets more dangerous walking on the side of the road at dark,” he said. “I would walk from about 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. taking very short breaks that way I can have a bigger rest period at night.”
Tingle said the ruck is hard work, but that’s the point.
“It’s about doing something outside of your comfort zone, motivating people to do something they may not typically do. Collin always pushed the limit and encouraged others to do,” Tingle said. “If we can use this and his memory to inspire people to do something extra in their lives, than that’s something special.”
Tingle added the ruck is also about remembering those still fighting for our county.
“There are men and women still getting killed so I’m keeping that in the forefront,” Tingle said. “I’m doing the best I can to make sure people remember that Collin’s sacrifice does not go unnoticed and people still remember him and what he did for our country, along with those still battling.”
Thomas was a highly decorated combat veteran during his nine combat deployments and more than 200 direct actions.
His combat awards include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with a “V” device (“V” device denotes Valor), a Purple Heart, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with “V” devices, and a Navy and Marine Crops Commendation Medal with “V” devices.
At Rowan County Senior High School, Thomas ran track and played varsity football. He attended Morehead State where he was initiated as a member of SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) fraternity.
He was selected by his Army ROTC instructors to attend U.S. Army Airborne School where he earned his basic military parachute qualification. Collin left college to enlist in the US Navy in February 1997.
After becoming a hospital corpsman and being meritoriously promoted to PO3, Thomas attended Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training (BUD/S), graduating with Class 219.
After receiving additional training, Thomas received his Trident and reported for duty at SEAL Team 4 in February 2000.
Brad Stacy can be reached at [email protected] or by telephone at 784-4116.
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