WASHINGTON (October 10, 2015) -- Among the hundreds of participants who visited the "Run To Honor" booth and filled out memorial race cards, one runner went out of his way to introduce himself to an exceptional Gold Star sister.
Stephanie Todd, of Saint Hedwig, Texas, never expected such a personal encounter as she spent her morning at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's booth at the Army Ten-Miler Expo. Her intent was to encourage any and all race participants to dedicate their runs to fallen service members; and then in walked her own inspiration.
John Teschner, of Charlottesville, Virginia, knew Stephanie's brother, Sgt. 1st Class David James Todd, Jr., when he was in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Teschner was a cadet, and Todd was his instructor.
Teschner remembered Todd as an instructor who genuinely cared about his students.
"I always told my Soldiers that one of the best things you could have on your side when you're developing [in your military career] is an instructor who actually cares, and that was Todd for me," he said.
"I remember when I was a captain in the Ranger Challenge Team during my senior year [at Tulane University]. I wasn't the best runner, but Todd was," he said. "During the last half mile, he was in his uniform with full boots on, and he was running with me and motivating me. That is just one example of what he did for his students."
Teschner graduated from the ROTC program and was commissioned in the Army as an officer. Because of Todd's leadership, Teschner followed in his footsteps and became a ROTC instructor later in his military career.
In 2008, Todd was killed in action near Bala Morghab, Afghanistan.
After hearing about Todd's death, Teschner kept in contact with Stephanie's family through a Facebook memorial group for her brother. Even though he was friends with her mother on the social media website, he never met Stephanie until the expo. The two talked about their memories of Todd, resulting in Teschner dedicating his Ten-Miler run to him.
For Teschner, the "Run to Honor" campaign holds a special meaning.
"When I run, it causes me to think and reflect on life -- especially for those individuals that we are running to honor," he said. "It gives me time to reflect on the impression that they made on me during their life."
Both Teschner and Stephanie ran in the Ten-Miler the next day. For Stephanie, the meeting made a huge impact on her run.
"Little did I realize how much this conversation would help me on Sunday morning. As I hit the five mile marker [at the race], all I could think about was John's story of David helping him in his run," she said.
"The conversation played over and over in my head as I listened to the clapping of my brother's dog tags, knowing that he was pushing me along too."