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Sailor swimming the entire Mississippi

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It's 2,552 miles from the headwaters of the Mississippi in northern Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico.

And that's how many miles Navy veteran Chris Ring is swimming--all to honor Gold Star families.  Gold Star families are families that have lost a spouse to war.

"These families paid the ultimate sacrifice so other families don't have to. We have everything, our values and beliefs, we can live free because these families paid the sacrifice, these heroes paid that sacrifice and we need to honor them," Ring said. "And as the war and everything is dying down, we don't want people to forget the sacrifice that was made."

Ring started his journey on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day.  Wednesday he started his swim at Finley's Landing, just north of Dubuque, and finished just south of Dubuque--a 14 mile swim.  In all, he says he swims anywhere from 10-20 miles each day.

It's sponsored by Legacies Alive, a non-profit based out of Washington D.C.  It's an extreme challenge, but one that Ring gladly accepts.

"I've always been comfortable in the water, but I don't really come from a swimming background. If it was something that was really easy, wasn't difficult for me to do, it wouldn't be the challenge that it is. So I wouldn't have it any other way, I want it to be difficult for me, as well. It gives me the focus on why I'm doing it. Nothing I face is going to be equal to the pain and suffering these families have felt. So I want it to be difficult," he said.

Ring plans most of his stops based on where he can meet the most Gold Star families.  He has each family sign the kayak his fellow crew member uses to keep him safe.  They've met so many that they've filled the first kayak and had to switch to a second.

The difficulties he faces along the way may increase as he pushes past Dubuque.  Access points will be harder to find.

"So we really have to plan our days really, really precisely based on mileage and access points. So we'll look anywhere from if there's a boat ramp to if there's a road that even comes to the river, or if there's a house that we've gone and knocked on people's doors and said, hey, can we get out in your backyard type of thing."

Ring will finish sometime in November or early December.  He says the date isn't nearly as important as meeting the families along the way, and remember their loved ones.

Legacies Alive says he'll be the first American and just second person ever to swim the entire length of the Mississippi.  He'll be formally recognized at this year's annual Army-Navy football game on December 12.

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