Fort Rucker runs to honor survivors, fallen heroes
April 25, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- The Fort Rucker community pulled together April 20 during the installation's second Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5k run and remember.
The run is designed to honor survivors and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, according to Beth Gunter, financial counselor for Survivor Outreach Services, and to show Families of fallen Soldiers that they are still a member of the Army Family.
"This gives us an opportunity to show survivors of our fallen service members that their loved one is not forgotten. We want to honor those who have fallen," she said, adding that this run is a tribute to the sacrifices that they have made for the rest of America.
The run is a collaborative effort by the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the members of B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment and the SOS program.
Gunter said that SOS reaches out to all survivors to provide service and answer whatever questions they may have for a lifetime, rather than just a period of time after a Soldier has fallen.
Some runners, like 1st Lt. Joshua Paille, who ran with a 20-pound rucksack, said they carried their fallen loved ones with them daily and that it was meaningful for Fort Rucker to honor the fallen this way.
"I ran for three people, but the one closest to my heart is Lance Cpl. Justin Mcleese. We went to high school together and he was killed in Fallujah," he said. Paille's running partner was Irish, a black yorkipoo who ran for Pvt. Robert Copeland.
"The run keeps the memory of the Soldiers alive. It is so easy to forget somebody when they are gone, but it means a lot to the Families and friends to see the names of those who [have been] lost on our backs and chests. We have to remember them," he said.
Keeping the memories of those lost alive is something that everyone participating from organizers to on lookers said was one of the most important things about the race. Many agreed that races such as this one are for the good of the country.
People could be seen crying during the competition as well as after the race, but smiles ultimately ran the show.
Lining the road at the start and finish lines were Wiregrass Patriot Guard Riders and members of local Boy Scout Troops. Many said it was an honor to do their parts.
"We do this out of respect for our fallen heroes and those who are still overseas," said Durl Adkinson, member of the Wiregrass Patriot Guard Riders. "We hope that [the Families] know that we are here to support them and that we respect what Soldiers do and what Families have sacrificed."
Three hundred and eighty six stars were worn and all available stars participated in the race. There were 377 participants this year, beating out last year's 359 total.
"We had [several] Soldiers come out and run for survivors in our area, but we also had blank stars if a runner knew someone and wanted to run in their honor," said Gunter.
Officials kept the tone of the race as upbeat as possible. The DFMWR helicopter was there, music was playing and a bouncy house was there for children.
Five Gold Star Families were represented at the race, embodying the about 700 Gold Star members that live in the Alabama area, according to Col. Stuart J. McRae, garrison commander.
"We will never forget the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we have. This is just a small symbol of that as we run and remember. In a way we are making sure that our Families are also neither forgotten nor left behind," he said.
McRae ran with Pfc. Ryan Winslow's star. Winslow is one of the 386 fallen heroes from the Alabama area.
CW4 Wayne Grimes, B Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, said he enjoyed the run, but that it reminded him of the heavy burden in his heart.
"We are remembering not just those who have fallen in this war but in all wars since the Revolutionary War. I am running for lots of lost friends … too many," he said.
The overall winners of the race were: Penny Proctor, overall female open winner; Kim Barcelone, overall female master winner; Cassie Logan, overall female grandmaster winner; David Seymour, overall male open winner; Marcus Woody, overall male master winner; and Max Timmons, overall male grandmaster winner.
Bandit Mccarthy, who ran with W01 Mac Mccarthy, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, was the first canine to cross the finish line.