JBLM family group's 2nd annual Memorial Day run quickly gains national attention
June 3, 2012
DUPONT, Wash. -- For two years, the organization known as "wear blue: run to remember" has served as a living memorial to fallen service members. Every week a group of runners in blue gathers at Powderworks Park in DuPont, Wash., to reflect, support and commemorate lost friends and loved ones with a weekly run.
"By forming the running community on Saturdays, it's giving people a way to give back and to let all those Gold Star Families know that your loss will never be forgotten," wear blue National Director of Marketing Tracey Boyle said.
Powderworks Park was a sea of blue May 28 as hundreds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord community members attended the Wear Blue Runs for the Fallen Memorial Day event. Organizers hoped to gather pledges from across the nation to run or walk miles to remember each of the 6,470 lives lost during the Global War on Terrorism. People in all 50 states and 12 countries pledged 13,820 miles and tallies aren't yet final.
"When we first posted it we were thinking what happens if we don't hit 6,000 miles?" wear blue co-founder and CEO Hallett said. "It's so humbling to see a community say we're proud of our military and we're grateful for the incredible sacrifices that we made. These steps are a vow of remembrance. It's really nice to see so much life breathed into the legacy of our fallen heroes."
The wear blue Facebook page was flooded with photos of runners, hikers, walkers, bicyclists dressed in blue from all over the world. For those in the JBLM community, runners, walkers, dogs and strollers chose between the three- and five-mile route in DuPont.
Every individual mile pledged was meaningful to someone. Andrea Mensink is the spouse of a deployed 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldier. Mensink pledged to run four miles in honor of the four 3-2 Inf. Bde. Soldiers who have been killed since her husband deployed in December.
Memorial Day was Mensink's first run with wear blue, which she heard about from her family readiness group.
"I went on their website and their Facebook page and their stories were just so touching, and to see how far-reaching it was across the country really made me want to be a part of this," she said.
Mensink pushed beyond her intended four miles until she finished eight.
"It was the most meaningful run," Mensink said.
Runners planted small flags in the ground as they finished both routes, which accumulated into an impressive display -- one flag per runner, but in a sense, each represented and commemorated every fallen service member.
Sergeant Major Luis Rivera of the 23rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Battalion ran eight miles wearing a chemical protective mask for fallen chemical battalion Soldiers. Rivera compared the run in the mask to training conditions in Utah.
Teresa Maggart has been a wear blue member for about a year. She pledged four miles in honor of her husband, Sgt. Brandon Maggart, who was killed in Iraq in 2010. Four symbolized the number of years they were married.
Maggart considered Monday's event particularly inspiring, from the community support demonstrated by a breakfast and later barbecue, to a special circle of remembrance, when participants called out the names of the service members that were honoring.
"(Four miles) is a little bit longer than I've done, so I'm kind of pushing myself that way," Maggart said. "I think the (number of runners) and the special day of Memorial Day that we're doing it -- for Brandon and for all the Soldiers -- (made this run different than the weekly training runs)."
At its end, the success of the Memorial Day run measured in participants' numbers and sentiments proved that the small group Hallett founded two years ago has grown across the nation and developed into something meaningful beyond JBLM.
"Memorial Day is a cry to people across the nation to remember, and I hope today serves as an access point to people throughout the JBLM community and support networks as an opportunity for them to come back and recognize what we have here," Hallett said.