'Run for Fallen' trek ends at Arlington
August 25, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 25, 2008) - Army National Guard Maj. Chris Kimball devoted August's fourth Sunday morning to remembering two active Army comrades who were killed in Iraq by running 10 kilometers from the Pentagon to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery.
Kimball and 10 other Soldiers assigned to the National Guard Bureau were among 150 men and women who ran the final 6.2-mile leg of the national Run for the Fallen which paid tribute to the more than 4,000 members of the armed forces, including 464 Army Guard Soldiers, who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many of them are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
August 24 marked the end of the trail for the low-profile, cross-country run which began outside Fort Irwin, Calif., on June 14, Flag Day and the Army's birthday. It ended with the morning run into and then back out of Washington before the humidity could turn the fun run into a sweltering ordeal.
Each mile of the first Run for the Fallen across the middle of America was dedicated to one of the deceased U.S. troops, according to Jon Bellona, a tanned, spindly young man who created the event after his best friend and Hamilton College (N.Y.) roommate, Army 1st Lt. Michael Cleary, was killed in Iraq in December 2005.
Organizers stressed that the run was apolitical. It was intended to increase awareness about those who have died for their country and to support the other people who have been affected without making a political statement about the war. Remembrance runs were also held for the same cause Aug. 24 in 35 states and four countries, Run for the Fallen organizers reported.
Kimball, who is assigned to the Pentagon, ran in memory of active Army Capt. Douglas Dicenzo, 30, and Maj. David Taylor, 37, who were victims of roadside bombs in Iraq in, respectively, May and October 2006. Both had young sons, Kimball said, and Taylor was showing his replacement officer around the countryside because he was scheduled to leave Iraq in about a week. He had become friends with the two men in Germany, Kimball added.
"Honoring them like this seems to be the right thing to do," said Kimball after finishing the leisurely-paced run grouped with the other runners.
Staff Sgt. Cierra Boykin, the master fitness administrator at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, organized the Guard's participation.
"I don't know anyone who's passed. This is my way of honoring the fallen and saying 'Thank you.' You don't have to know someone specifically to know the sacrifice that was given." Boykin explained. "We love to run. What better way to honor those who have fallen than by doing something that we love to do."
Three of the fallen were serving with the National Guard Bureau when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Jan. 20, 2007. Col. Paul Kelly, Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Haller, and Sgt. 1st Class Floyd Lake were among 10 Army Guard Soldiers killed in that incident.
"We run across America to raise awareness about the lives of those who fought, to activate their memories and keep their spirits alive, to support organizations that help wounded veterans and the families of those killed, and to aid in the healing process for those Americans whose lives have been affected by the war," states the Run for the Fallen's mission statement.
The Sunday morning 10K run did not have the fanfare or the throngs of runners or the competitive spirit that is associated with the Army Ten-Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon that are held in the nation's capital every fall. The entire 10-week run across America did not generate a lot of national attention during this Olympic summer.
Yet, Indiana Army Guard Capt. Rick Mercer, who piloted Black Hawk helicopters in Afghanistan in 2004-05, believed it was important to run that Sunday morning for the fallen and for those they have left behind.
After telling about four other Indiana Guard Soldiers who were killed by a mine during a dreadful day in March 2005 in Afghanistan while he was there, Mercer said he ran "for all of the family members who have to carry on with their daily lives without their service members."