SAN ANTONIO (October 5, 2015) -- In 2006, Stephanie Todd, a Saint Hedwig, Texas, resident, and her, brother Sergeant 1st Class David James Todd, Jr., were home for Thanksgiving. They wanted to do a "Family friendly" race together, and the highly-competitive siblings signed up for the Turkey Trot 4 Miler in San Antonio's McAllister Park -- only a mile from the siblings' childhood home.
Being the little sister of an Army scout, Stephanie had something to prove to her big brother.
"I wanted to show him how awesome I was at running," she recalled.
That morning, Stephanie and her brother were at the race's starting line. Stephanie, well-prepared with a good night's sleep and a runner's proper dietary intake, saw her coffee-fueled brother puffing a cigarette right before the race began. The sight of the cigarette coupled with David's retro, 1980s style running shoes made Stephanie think that beating her brother to the finish line would be a "piece of cake."
"The race gun goes off, and my brother takes off like a jack rabbit with reindeer legs," she said. "Needless to say, he was one of the first people at the finish line."
David waited and congratulated his sister as she crossed the finish line later.
"He did not know my secret mission was to beat him, but even if he did, he would never harass me about it," said Stephanie. "My brother was like that with everyone. You want to prove yourself to him. When you could not measure up, he made you feel like a shining star anyway."
The Turkey Trot 4 Miler was the last time the Todd siblings ran together. In 2008, David was killed near Bala Morghab, Afghanistan.
The story of friendly sibling rivalry keeps Stephanie, a runner of over 22 years, motivated to keep running long distance treks.
"After my brother died, I found a new reason to run. I do not run to race anymore," she said.
This weekend, she will travel to Washington, D.C., to run in honor of her brother during the Army Ten-Miler. She will participate in the G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's "Run to Honor" campaign, an initiative to increase awareness of surviving military Family members and the meaning the symbols of honor they wear.
Stephanie identifies herself as a "Gold Star sister," because she wears the Gold Star Lapel Button -- a pin designated for survivors of service members who lost their lives in combat operations. Along with the pin, she plans to wear other symbols of honor such as her brother's dog tags and a commemorative race bib during the ten-mile run.
As she prepares for the Army Ten-Miler, Stephanie feels calm and at ease. Even though she took a break from running after an injury a few years ago, she is not stressed out about the race.
"When I run, I just feel my brother's presence and it gives me a great sense of peace," she said. "I know that he's there and cheering me on."
She encourages other survivors to run in honor of a fallen loved ones during the weekend-- whether it is during the Army Ten-Miler or another running event in the survivor's local area.
"For people who aren't used to running, I encourage them to give 'Run to Honor'
a chance. Running can be another form of expression of who they are and what that person meant to them," she concluded.
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U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
Army.mil: Survivor Outreach Services