Every year, thousands of participants converge on Atlanta for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.
This year, 17-year-old Rhett Longmire joined them. The walk was an opportunity for participants to raise funds for breast cancer research, but for Longmire, the journey represented a promise kept.
"My mom does the walk every five years," said Longmire, a Riverside Military Academy student.
"After her last walk, she kept asking me to do it with her. I'd promised to do it, but after she was diagnosed with cancer last year, it became an automatic ‘yes.'"
He didn't just walk the walk; Longmire left his mark.
Out of more than 2,000 participants, he was one of the first people to cross the finish line at Turner Field in Atlanta.
"He said ‘I'm going to win this for you mom,'" recalls Milly Longmire, a Milton resident.
"I told him it wasn't a race, but he was determined."
Milly Longmire has participated in the three-day, 60-mile walk twice before, so she knew how grueling it could be.
"Your feet really go through it. When you go through the campsite at the end of the day, people are taking off their shoes and their feet look like raw hamburger meat," Milly Longmire said.
"I started doing the walk when I was 35 because a relative had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I would've loved to continue walking for others instead of being a cancer person, but I'm thankful for being here to do it at all.
"When I was first diagnosed, it was like someone sucker-punched me. After I hung up the phone, I let out a yell. Then I said, ‘OK God. I give it all to you.' From that moment on, I was never worried. I laughed. I was positive. Even when I lost all of my hair, I smiled because I could feel the anointment of Him on me."
That positive attitude paid off. During the race Longmire wore the customary white T-shirt for supporters, while his mom wore the pink T-shirt for cancer survivors. A week before the walk her doctors informed her that she was in remission.
Although cancer treatments and doctors appointments prevented Milly Longmire from training properly for the walk this year, her son chose not to train at all.
"I didn't do any formal training for the walk," Longmire said.
"I told my mom with me being in military school, I didn't need to do much training because of all the marching that we do."
For the first two days of the race, Oct. 21-23, Longmire stuck by his mom's side. The duo "lolly-footed around" allowing Milly Longmire the opportunity to "soak it all in and enjoy it."
On the third day, Longmire joined a few other women and decided to race to the finish. One of the women, Linda Hickey, was Longmire's former baby sitter and a friend of the family.
"(Hickey) finished the walk first on Friday and Saturday. On the last day, she came to our tent and Rhett started joking around with her saying he was gonna win that day," Milly Longmire said.
Although she started out the course that day with her friend and son, they became separated and Milly Longmire didn't get to see them reach the finish line.
"(Hickey), Rhett and two other ladies booked it. Rhett said, ‘Mom, we were motoring,'" Milly Longmire said.
"After it was over, (Hickey) said, ‘You don't know what kind of son you have. He was way ahead of us and he turned around and said, "Allright ladies, we can do this."'"
Although Longmire could've crossed the finish line alone, he wouldn't.
"Rhett told them, ‘We started this together, we're going to finish this together,'" Longmire remembers Hickey telling her.
"They locked arms and all walked in together."The trio completed the last 17 miles of the walk in three hours and five minutes.
"They finished so fast, the people at Turner Field couldn't believe they were done already," Milly Longmire said.
While the walk organizers may have been amazed by their speed, Longmire says he was more awestruck by the other participants.
"They all have so much energy, even the people who are going through chemotherapy. They're amazing," Longmire said.
"Even when they were tired, everyone was so upbeat. It was a life changing experience."