Soldiers participating in Run to Remember
September 8, 2011
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Soldiers of the 40th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion and other units deployed at Al Asad are endeavoring to log at least 2,977 miles collectively between Sept. 1 and 11 -- one mile for each person killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The mastermind behind the event, Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Vazquez, a platoon sergeant with the 59th MP Company, attached to the 40th MP Battalion, came up with the idea two days before the first of September.
"Every year I always did something on 9/11 to remember what had happened, whether it was moments of silence or just talking to my Soldiers about the importance of values, importance of being a Soldier, where they were that day, and what being in the military meant to them and me," Vazquez explained.
He briefed his squad leaders and they embarked on planning a challenging, "Forrest Gump"-style run.
The run began at midnight Sept. 1 at the Jordan Stadium track where 10 Soldiers gathered. 40th MP Chaplain (Capt.) Stephen Dicks prayed that every single mile ran would be in honor of victims who lost their lives, and then the running commenced. From that moment, there have been at least two Soldiers from Vazquez' platoon on the track day and night with other Soldiers joining them to help achieve this challenging mission.
Soldiers go to the track before and after work, stop by the welcome table, sign in, and start running. Once they finish running or walking, they log their total miles. Hundreds of Soldiers and civilians stationed at Al Asad have participated. The total mileage will be released at the ceremony Sept. 11, but event leaders estimate more than 3,000 miles have already been logged.
Spc, Patrick Roche said he ran "to be part of a unified movement, remembering the events of that day and the actions taken to make this world a better place, it's awesome. Nobody here will forget and I hope no one ever does."
While many of the Soldiers were in middle school when 9/11 happened, they grew up commemorating the tragedy every year and grasp the significance of its remembrance. Running is also a fitting way for Soldiers to mark the anniversary, said Spc. Raymond Emry, who said he runs because it gives him "time to reflect on the event and the lives lost that day."
HHC, 40th MP Battalion, from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., has worked with the 59th MP Company from Fort Carson, Colo., since pre-deployment exercises at Camp McGregor, Texas, in November 2010. Together, Soldiers from the two units successfully ran and transferred the Camp Cropper Theater Internment Facility in August 2011 and are again together supporting missions at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
"Our companies began working as a team prior to deployment, and have continued a 'one team, one fight' mentality that got us through many challenging months of deployment," said 40th MP Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Erica Nelson. "It is an honor to continue our teamwork by participating in an event that commemorates a very historical and tragic event for our nation. Many of these Soldiers made the decision to join the military following the events of 11 September because they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves. This event demonstrates our commitment to each other to work as a battalion team to achieve one common goal, while serving as a reminder of those who lost their lives on 11 September 2001."