September 20, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. – An emotional day in our nation’s capital as Mike Bowen of Flushing – the “Flag Man” – finally completed his run to honor those who died or went missing during the Vietnam War.
Surrounded by his family, friends, and the Patriot Guard, Bowen reached the finish line Friday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., bringing his 31-year journey to an end.
“Mission accomplished, man!” Bowen said.
In 1982, the Army veteran was visiting the memorial when he got the idea to run one mile for every name listed on the wall – that’s more than 58,000 names.
ABC12 News has followed Bowen’s journey for the last 13 years.
He’s dubbed “The Flag Man,” because every time he runs, he carries a Prisoner of War flag with him. He has also battled cancer and two knee surgeries during his quest.
Friday, the Flag Man completed his last four miles.
“It was pretty simple because I’m in good shape,” Bowen said. “And I love to run in the heat, so I had two things going for me.”
After his run, the Flag Man saluted the wall at the panel where his friend John Lee’s name is carved in stone. Lee was a classmate of Bowen’s at Clio High School who died in the war.
“Seven other names up there I can put a face to. Guys I served with. It’s just good closure,” Bowen said.
The Flag Man ran mostly alone all these years, but his wife Patti has always been by his side.
“He’s very dedicated. When he sets his mind to something, he’s going to do it, and he did,” Patti Bowen said.
Now that this journey is over for Bowen, he’s already looking forward to his next adventure. He said he plans to run in memory of those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks – and for the soldiers killed overseas during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“Never stop running…We have to let them know there are still a lot of prisoners out there,” Bowen said. “We can’t forget. The price of freedom is huge.”