Beginning on June 6, Holy Rosary Academy and Father Ryan High School graduate Chris Ring will swim the length of the Mississippi River. He will be the first American to do so.
This is not a response to a dare or a ploy to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Ring, who has spent the last 10 years faithfully serving his country in the military, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, hopes to bring awareness to the plight of families who have lost loved ones in our nation’s global war on terrorism.
The “Swim for Their Sacrifice” is being coordinated by the non-profit organization Legacies Alive, whose mission is to care for, and establish a support network for, Gold Star Families – those who have lost a loved one in the service of his or her country.
“Once I heard about the cause I was immediately hooked,” said Ring. “I haven’t lost anyone in my family, but being deployed, being gone, we’ve all lost friends. So it touches all of us. I’m truly inspired to connect these families that have lost someone, for them to have someone to talk to, and to bring them together with other families that have gone through the same thing.”
As Ring makes his way down the Mississippi from Lake Itaska, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, he’ll be meeting with Gold Star Families, interacting with them, and encouraging local media coverage.
“We’re planning for it to take roughly six months, and that’s with me swimming about 16 miles a day,” explained Ring. “I’ll probably get up early in the morning, swim for about four hours, get out and eat real quick, hop back in the water and finish out the swim for the day. The goal is to meet as many Gold Star Families along the route as possible; hopefully at least three a week.”
The swim is an endurance trial honoring the fallen, as well as a symbolic testament to the sacrifices made by family members. Ring will ultimately swim 3,760 kilometers, which, according to Legacies Alive, is the number of “selfless spouses whose husband or wife laid down his or her life for our country.”
This 2015 Legacy Challenge, like previous challenges, will start in June and end by the annual Army-Navy football game in the fall.
“As a veteran, Chris understands the true meaning of service, sacrifice, and what it takes to be part of something bigger than himself,” said Mark Faldowski, founder of Legacies Alive. “He also recognizes that the ‘military family’ not only includes service members, but also those who they love and hold dear. His loving wife, Becca, has supported him throughout multiple deployments and he knows the sacrifices that she has made during these times.”
There are four primary components of the Legacies Alive mission. The agency sponsors Legacy Challenges, like Ring’s Mississippi swim, which demonstrate extreme physical and mental tests that recognize fallen heroes, and rally support for their families. Its Legacy Projects are designed to depict and preserve the contributions of fallen heroes as service members, and as unique individuals.
A Mutual Support Base provides opportunities for families to connect with other families with military members and collaborates with other entities that champion the Legacies Alive spirit, by linking Gold Star Families to these additional resources.
Lastly, Legacies Alive celebrates the lives of the fallen as members of their families and hometowns, by striving to erect lasting, physical monuments in their honor.
Although he will not be immortalized with a statue, Ring’s own service has been extensive, and will continue when he leaves the military officially in the near future, by working with Gold Star Families through Legacies Alive.
“Chris is a man of character, selflessness and humility,” said Faldowski. “He takes great pride in his Tennessee roots and it’s evident that those close to him have shaped a man that lives the values of an exemplary warrior, citizen, husband and friend.”
In fact, his appreciation for the role of community in a person’s life, and the benefits of being part of one, was instilled in Ring during his Tennessee Catholic education.
“Being at Father Ryan and having gone to Holy Rosary Academy for grade school, just gave me that sense of community, of being around families of faith and with strong beliefs in their lives,” said Ring. “I had that same sense of community in the military, drawing upon memories of growing up and being around like-minded families that support each other.”
Accolades for his commitment to his country aside, Ring is quick to turn the spotlight away from his personal achievements. “A really important piece to me that I’d like to convey is a quote that people often bring up: it’s not about me or what I’m doing, but properly honoring those who this organization is about,” said Ring. “My fear is that people will get too focused on me, and what I’m doing, instead of bringing awareness of this cause, and these families, and the legacies of these fallen heroes.”
For those who would like to learn more about the Legacies Alive mission, to track the progress of Ring’s Swim for Their Sacrifice 2015 Legacy Challenge, or to donate money or materials to the cause, visit