HALL COUNTY, Ga. — Evan Murrer’s great-grandfather was forced to walk a thousand miles as a prisoner of war in Korea. To honor the hero he called Granddaddy, the 9-year-old from Hall County joined his family in walking 100 miles, completing their trek in time for Veterans Day.
“We walked in our neighborhood, baseball field, parking lots,” said Evan, who’s a fourth grader at Spout Springs School of Enrichment in Flowery Branch. “I want people to know he saved a lot of lives during the war.”
His grandfather was Private First Class William Freeman Jr., who died in May at the age of 93. In 1951, he was captured by a Chinese battalion in Korea during the Hoengsong Massacre and forced to march 1,000 miles in three months. His obituary says he was released in August 1953.
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Evan’s mother, Renee Murrer, said her son was especially moved at the funeral.
“He said, ‘I want to do something, I want to help, I want to remember Granddaddy,’” she said.
He and his family decided to organize a fundraiser for veterans by walking 100 miles in Granddaddy’s honor. They started on October 3rd, Freeman’s birthday – “his first birthday in Heaven,” Evan said.
The Murrer family launched a Facebook page called Operation Never Forget and a fundraising site to raise money for the Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit advocating for prisoners of war and their families. So far, the family has raised more than $5,600.
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The mayor of Braselton, where Evan lives, plans to issue a proclamation to celebrate Evan’s efforts in raising support for veterans.
He admits getting tired while walking, but memories of his Granddaddy motivated him to press on. “Sometimes I started complaining a lot,” he said. “But I remembered those veterans were hurting and dying while they were walking. I couldn’t be complaining because those veterans were really hurting.”
Renee Murrer said it’s inspiring to see the connection Evan has formed with his great-grandfather.
“It makes my heart feel so good that he wants to know about him,” she said. “He wants to remember him, but he wants to serve as well. It makes me really proud.”
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