Paratroopers, families run to remember in 24-hour relay
November 15, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- "Like a dark, evil cloud, 1,200 came down on him and 29 more. They fought for their lives, but most of them died in the 173rd Airborne."
These lyrics from Big & Rich's tribute "The 8th of November," pays homage to the lives that were lost in Vietnam during Operation Hump, as Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade were ambushed.
Forty-eight American Soldiers lost their lives that day.
Still, 48 years later, there is proof that paratroopers never forget.
Each year, for the past seven years, the Running of the Herd commemorates the 1,805 Soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) that have lost their lives in conflicts from Vietnam to the present day.
This year, Soldiers and families from both the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st Cavalry Regiment, and the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, showed their support by running this 24-hour relay in conjunction with the 173rd IBCT's event at their headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.
Soldiers and families gathered at Tower Barracks in Grafenwoehr to continue the tradition for the seventh annual Running of the Herd.
Both teams and individuals participated, completing as many four-mile legs as possible during the 24-hour run that began Nov. 7 at 9:30 a.m.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Hantak of Alpha Battery, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, set out to beat Sgt. Derek Stutz individual record of 56 miles from the event at COP Baraki-Barack in 2012.
Hantak succeeded, completing 16 laps for a total of 67.2 miles, finishing second in the individual category behind Capt. Adam Greene from Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels with 71 miles.
"On my last deployment, my friend Even Batista died right in front of me; I am running this for him," Hantak said as he pointed out scars on his legs from that day last year. "I want to earn a spot in the history of the 173rd."
As many runners ran in honor of their fallen comrades, others had something different on their minds.
First Squadron (Airborne), 91st Cavalry Regiment's Bulldog Troop commander, Capt. Colin Bair ran for his Army family.
"It's all about supporting the team and our family over here. Unit pride is an important part of what we do every day."
"It's about everyone coming together and being a part of something bigger than yourself," said 1st Lt. Virgil Smith 1-91st Cav. Regt. squadron medical officer, who participated in the event at COP Baraki-Barack in 2012. "Last year we put on our own event in Afghanistan. Everyone finds a way to commemorate the event no matter the circumstances."
And commemorate they did, running a combined total of more than 3,000 miles over the 24-hour period that ended on the anniversary of that fateful day in 1965.
Team Winner: B Battery, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment -- 329 miles
Individual Winner: Capt. Adam Greene, JMRC Hohenfels -- 71 miles.