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100 miles: One day, one cause

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wayne Jenderny, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, runs with the goal of reaching 100 miles in less than 24 hours at an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, April 7, 2012. Jenderny, Minnesota Air National Guard member deployed from the 148th Fighter Wing and native of Eyota, Minn., ran 100 miles in less than 24 hours to raise awareness and take donations for a fellow firefighter's daughter who is suffering from a painful nerve disorder. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wayne Jenderny, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, runs with the goal of reaching 100 miles in less than 24 hours at an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, April 7, 2012. Jenderny, Minnesota Air National Guard member deployed from the 148th Fighter Wing and native of Eyota, Minn., ran 100 miles in less than 24 hours to raise awareness and take donations for a fellow firefighter's daughter who is suffering from a painful nerve disorder. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- How long does it take you to drive 100 miles in a day, or pedal a bike that distance? Would you even consider walking or running 100 miles in a day? What if it was to help a friend and his family?

For Tech. Sgt. Wayne Jenderny, the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of fire training, helping a fellow firefighter was his reason for attempting to run 100 miles in a single day -- and succeeding.

Master Sgt. Pete Soergel, a firefighter from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing, has a daughter, Sharon, who has been diagnosed with a painful nerve disorder. She has extensive physical therapy sessions to retrain the affected nerves and reduce the pain. This comes at an elevated monetary cost for the family and a major physical cost to Sharon.

"A few of us have deployed with Soergel here before, and we know that this deployment will be his hardest time away from home," Jenderny said. "Every time I've deployed with him, he spent all his time taking care of others. He's very humble, and he's also one of the best senior NCOs I have ever met. That's why I wanted to complete 100 miles at once, to raise donations to help (his family) and maybe take away some of the worry he'll have. And even if people only donated a few cents per mile, every mile was going to be worth it because Sharon is worth it."

Sometimes running alone, sometimes running with a buddy and sometimes running with a flock of fellow runners, Jenderny began his 100-mile trek at the stroke of midnight. Through the stillness of early morning, the building heat of the day and the cool breezes of night, Jenderny watched the sun rise, peak and set as he logged mile after mile.

"Very rarely was I alone, even in the middle of the night and in heat of the afternoon, and the support I got gave me strength to keep me going when my body wanted to quit," Jenderny said.

"Sharon has a lot of challenges she faces every day, we all do," Soergel said. "But now, my daughter knows that there are people all over the world who are thinking about her and praying for her. This has really helped her, especially since her dad's going to be away for six months; and because it's easier for her, it's easier for me."

Soergel said he is still amazed that this event happened, but wasn't surprised that Jenderny was the leader.

"Wayne is a great guy -- he always takes up the cause of the person who is getting squashed," Soergel said. "I am still flabbergasted that Wayne did this. I mean, how many people get told that someone is running 100 miles in a day for your daughter? But that's Wayne for you; he is always helping the person who needs it most."

Others in the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing said Jenderny's run was a siren's call they couldn't resist, nor did they want to.

"When Jenderny first told me about his 100-mile awareness run and the little girl it was benefiting, I knew right away this was something I wanted to take part in," said Master Sgt. Thomas Speranzi, the 386th AEW command administrator. "This was something much bigger than myself. This is how we take care of our wingmen ... whether they are here or 8,000 miles away. Heat, distance or time isn't a factor as long as we keep the goal in mind."

While the short term goal for Jenderny was the fairly finite 100 miles, which he finished in 22 hours and 39 minutes, the long-term goal was infinitely more rewarding.

"We want (the Soergel family) to know that they're not alone," Jenderny said. "And when (Sergeant Soergel) is here, people will meet him and know that he is not just a name, and his daughter is not just a picture in an email -- these are real people they will know, a family going through something that will test them every day while Soergel's deployed."