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Tribute Helps Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq


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May 17, 2004 — More than a month after her daughter was killed in Iraq, Lori Witmer received a very special — and unusual — tribute to her daughter.

A former Army Ranger from Florida completed a grueling, non-stop 175-mile run from Miami Beach to Key West to honor her 20-year-old daughter Michelle, who was killed in an ambush in Baghdad last month.

Michelle was serving with the National Guard in Iraq alongside her sisters Rachel and Charity on April 9 when she was killed in an insurgent attack. The two surviving sisters decided against returning to Iraq after Michelle's funeral, but are supporting the Defense Department's homeland security missions in Wisconsin.

When Alex Estrella, a former Ranger who served in the first Gulf War, called up the Witmers' home in New Berlin, Wis., and told them about his plan to honor Michelle's memory, Lori was immensely touched by the gesture.

In her first interview since her daughters decided against returning to Iraq, Lori told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America the gesture prompted her to buy a plane ticket from Wisconsin to Florida to support Estrella, despite her almost paralyzing grief.

Running Four Days Without Sleep

It was a punishing run done non-stop over four days with support teams running behind Estrella to provide him food and water. For the last few miles of the run, he crawled for a while and was then pushed across the finish line in a wheelchair.

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