Run honors POWs, MIAs, promotes wellness, resiliency
September 27, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Sept. 27, 2012) -- With the roar of a fire truck and several motorcycles leading the way for the stomping feet of more than 2,400 service members, it was hard not to hear the early morning run make its way through Fort Meade on Friday.
"It's good to have a lot of people out there," said Staff Sgt. Norman Portillo, an instructor at the NCO Academy. "I enjoyed waking up everybody."
Service members from approximately 30 organizations participated in the installation's Wellness and Remembrance Joint Service Run, which began at McGlachlin Parade Field.
The three-mile run through the installation paid tribute to 9/11 and POW/MIA Recognition Day, while promoting wellness and resiliency.
Each year, commemorations are held throughout the country on the third Friday of September for National POW/MIA Recognition Day, one of six national observances for which Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families' POW/MIA flag.
According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office website, more than 80,000 service members have not been accounted for since World War II -- 73,000 of whom served in that war.
Prior to the run, a National League of Families' POW/MIA flag was raised below the American flag on the parade field.
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Latter began the event with a moment of silence for the POWs and MIAs.
"POWs and MIAs are still out there missing -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen we still have not accounted for," he said. "Before we begin the run today, I would like us all to take a moment of silence to think about our members who are still missing."
To help honor POW/MIA Recognition Day, members of the Hogs and Heroes Foundation Maryland Chapter 2 attended the run to lead the way.
"Honoring our fallen service members and those who are captured and still missing is part of our mission," said Fort Meade Fire Capt. David Hilliard, who serves as chapter president. "We were there to honor that."
At around 6:30 a.m., service members marched off the parade field to start the run. It took nearly 20 minutes for all 2,400 service members to begin their route on English Avenue.
Once all runners returned to the parade field around 7:15 a.m., Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein spoke to the large crowd gathered around the gazebo.
"We should never forget what happened on 9/11 and why we're doing what we're doing so well," he said. "We are an installation that does a 24-7 mission. ... You make it happen every day and you do it because of the things that have occurred. You do it for all the right reasons. It makes us very proud."
Resiliency and wellness, including sexual harassment and assault, substance abuse or suicide, were also addressed by Rothstein. Although the installation is working on programs to help with these problems, he said, it is up to the service members to use the programs and make them effective.
"What I want you to do is walk away from this formation thinking about that -- thinking about your battle buddy to your right and left," he said. "Do what is right. ... that is taking care of yourself, your family, your friends, your colleagues and this installation of ours."
Several service members said they enjoyed seeing all the military branches coming together for the run, and that it was a good way to honor POW, MIAs and 9/11.
"I think it is a great thing," Portillo said. "It shows everybody's support."