ST. CLOUD - Jim Crigler is putting his personal, and professional, life on hold for two months while he raises awareness for Gold Star Families while rowing down the Mississippi River

The 67-year-old from Winona started his journey on Earth Day at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca. Depending upon weather and river conditions he plans on finishing his ambitious adventure in New Orleans, Louisiana between June 20-25.

In the first week of his journey he has had to shake snow off his tent a couple times. A problem he says he is looking forward to not having to deal with the further south he gets.

Many people wonder what would motivate Criger to sacrifice so much time, energy and money since he is funding his own expedition.

For Crigler it started over 40 years ago when he was a draftee of the Vietnam War. He was a warrant officer flying helicopters.

During his time in the military he was given a one week rest and relaxation trip. While many people may have used that time to see family or friends, Crigler spent it in Fond-Du-Lac, Wisconsin burying his roommate and friend, Thomas Francis Shaw. This was his first experience with a Gold Star Family.

That moment inspired a life-long passion for Crigler, getting average every day Americans to reach out and thank those who have sacrificed so much for your country.

"We have this constitution that we are constantly arguing about in Washington D.C. and you know that constitution is just a piece of paper unless someone is willing to shed blood for it. The people that shed blood are in the military, and the people that have lost the most are Gold Star Families. Those families that have lost a son or a daughter in the defense of our freedom. "

Raising awareness for Gold Star Families is just the beginning for Crigler. He is also raising money for American Huey 369, an organization who's mission is to preserve, educate and pay tribute to all veterans/patriots. Any proceeds from Crigler's book, Mission Of Honor, are going to American Huey 369.

Donations will always be excepted but Crigler wants people to know that just a letter to a Gold Star Family can make a large impact.

"The reason I am going down this river is to get normal American citizens to look up a Gold Star Family in their area, take a $0.49 stamp, an envelope and piece of paper and write them a thank you note."

While many problems in this world can't be cured without years of research, this problem can be cured with an envelope, a stamp and a note.

If you would like to follow Jim Crigler on his journey from Itasca to New Orleans you can go to his website through the link below

Justin LaBounty WJON