Minnesota Man Brings Attention To Veteran Suicide with 100-Mile Trek

by Jennifer Shea

Caleb Wedger hates running, but he ran (and sometimes walked) a 100-mile stretch of trail in Minnesota to raise awareness about the 100 veterans who die by suicide each year in the state.

Wedger doesn’t run much, he told KARE 11. In fact, for someone embarking on an epic marathon, he did vanishingly little training for it.

“I took one little 20-minute nap. I sat down a few times to eat something. But other than that, we’ve pretty much been going,” he told the station toward the end of his 100-mile trek. “We were able to run a lot of the first 50 [miles], but now my legs are so torn up that we’re shuffling our way to the end.”

Veteran Suicide Is A Serious Problem, Wedger Says

Wedger began his trek on Friday morning along the Hardwood Creek Trail. He made a round-trip journey from Forest Lake to North Branch to Hugo and back. And by Saturday – which was Minnesota Veteran Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day – he was done.

The reluctant runner is a veteran himself, having served in the Minnesota National Guard. When he heard the 100-per-year statistic, he said, “that just kind of clung onto my heart and didn’t let go.”

“That 100 Minnesota veterans that take their own lives, you know, that’s not 100 people, that’s 100 families that are affected by suicide,” he added.

Wedger has dubbed his run “100 Too Many,” and he’s gained a number of sponsors. All of the money raised from them goes to the Freedom Fishing Foundation, a charity that sponsors fishing trips for veterans.

“It’s a tangible thing that we can do and help these folks get outdoors, meet new people, connect with people who’ve gone through the same thing,” the foundation’s president, Ben Elfelt, told KARE 11.

Wedger Understands the Issue Firsthand

It was not sympathy so much as empathy that drove Wedger to spend hours doing something he hates. The issue of suicide has a particular resonance for him.

In 2010, Wedger’s father committed suicide as Wedger was preparing to leave for basic training. Wedger was just 20 at the time, and two weeks out from starting his military service.

“That’s why I have a heart for families who have gone through that,” he told KARE 11.

Wedger has thus far raised roughly $17,000 for the Freedom Fishing Foundation. The charity accepts donations through their website, and is also looking for volunteers.