HONOLULU - Maj. Charlie Kim, 25th Infantry Division, joined more than a thousand Hawaii-based troops for their own version of the Great Aloha Run in Tikrit, Iraq, Feb. 8.

Kim stated the Iraq version of the race differed from the one held each year in Honolulu, but the aloha spirit was the same. The run was also a way to stay connected to his family back home.

"It will be something fun to talk about with my family," said Kim. "I am sure there will be many stories from their experience they will be eager to tell me."

Fast forward one week and 8,000 miles away. The sun hid beyond the horizon, and the air was crisp on that Monday Honolulu morning. Kim's wife, Danielle, and two of their six children, 11-year-old Joshua and 9-month-old Madeline, joined tens of thousands of people gathered downtown for the 25th Annual Great Aloha Run (GAR), Feb. 16.

Runners, joggers and casual walkers lined up for the famous race. Runners stretched, sleepy-eyed children nestled in their strollers and parents held cups of coffee tightly in their hands, begging for the caffeine to wake them up.

Members of the U.S. armed forces lined up on Nimitz Highway; each branch represented by a flag waving high in the morning breeze.

As the national anthem began, hands moved sternly to their foreheads, and the crowd held their hearts proudly and sang along.

Hawaii Ponoi followed and brought on a wave of cheers at the end, indicating the start of the race was near.

The cannon boomed, while simultaneously the sun peaked and more than 20,000 participants pounded the pavement and made their way through the 8.15-mile race from the Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium.

Hawaii is a special place for the Kim family. It is where Kim and Danielle met and married. After moving to the mainland for many years, the Kim family is back in the land of aloha and taking advantage of the beauty provided.

"I ran in this race before I was married over 12 years ago," said Danielle. "We've been back (in Hawaii) for six months, and it is starting to feel like home again.

"When I heard about the sign-ups for the GAR, I knew I wanted to run," continued Danielle. "I have such fond memories of running the race before."

Danielle also took advantage of the discounted entry fee for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Blue Star cardholders.

Madeline, on the verge of her first step and years away from running, sat bright-eyed in a jogging stroller pushed by Danielle as Joshua walked next to his family members, eventually breaking away from the pack in an attempt to win a prize for best time in his age group.

Joshua prepared himself for the race with a bit of training and stated he now had bragging rights having walked more miles than his father did during the Iraq GAR. Although, the young jogger admitted if his father were running with him that day, Kim would probably win.

"I think he's faster than I am," said Joshua.

Danielle and Madeline rolled over the finish line after two hours and 37 minutes, while Joshua beat them by more than an hour, providing plenty of rest time at the stadium.

"I am glad the military is involved in this race," said Danielle. "The Great Aloha Run is a big part of the community in Hawaii, and this is a good way for the military to blend in and get to know Hawaii for what it is: a mix of all that God has made."

Kim agreed.

"I can't think of an event that does a better job of bringing the two communities together," said Kim.

Danielle is counting the days to GAR 2010, and she stated every member of her family would participate, together, as a family.

"All eight of us," said Danielle, smiling. "I think that qualifies for the group rate."