By Tribune staffNovember 30, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla., Nov. 30, 2017 -- Despite a 24-degree wind chill factor, about 1,600 runners participated in the 428th Field Artillery Brigade's Run for the Fallen Nov. 22, which honored deceased service members, and Gold Star families at Butner Field.
In her invocation, Chap-lain (Maj.) Patricia Nichols, said: "We want to honor them (fallen service members) not only today, but everyday with lives of service. (God) grant us the strength, the power, and the wisdom to live and love well."
Col. Joe Bookard, 428th FA Brigade commander, welcomed the crowd. The commander spoke about the memorial set up by the lectern, and acknowledged the 80 Gold Star family members in attendance.
"Spend some time to get to know the families," Bookard said. "As we remember the fallen, this is part of the therapeutic healing not only for service members, but families as well."
At 8 a.m., a blast from a B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery "Salute Battery" howitzer signaled the field to begin the run. A new 5K route took runners to Old Post Quadrangle, by the Field Artillery Museum and back to Butner Field, said Terry Hall, Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports, Fitness and Aquatics supervisor and the race administrator.
Cheryl Wehner, Fort Sill Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) support coordinator retiree/volunteer, said the Run for the Fallen has been held for several years. It honors service members who died while on active duty; and their families for the sacrifices that they went through, she said.
"This is our biggest Gold Star family event. This year we have about 80 Gold Star family members, up from 55 last year," she said. "One group from Yukon (Okla.), had 17 family members."
In her speech, Wehner invited everyone to visit the Hall of Remembrance in the Fort Sill Welcome Center. It features the photographs of fallen service members from Oklahoma and Arkansas, which is the Fort Sill SOS's area of responsibility.
"Right now we have 201 photographs," she said. "After the run, we're adding another one."
After the last runner and walker returned, a ceremony recognized the 20 Gold Star families, who participated in the commemoration. Bookard, and 428th FA Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Oliver presented each family with a plaque of "The Soldier's Prayer."
Staff Sgt. BobbiJo Florian, Headquarters and Head-quarters Battery, 428th FA Brigade human resources sergeant, was one of the brigade's many Soldiers who helped run the event. She said it was an honor for the brigade to host the run.
"You see all these (Gold Star) families, and talk to them and hear their stories behind their spouses, their loved ones," she said. "It's really touching."
Gold Star spouse Marion Newton, of Lawton, represented her late husband, Staff Sgt. James Newton, 4th Battalion, 4th Field Artillery, who died during a training accident at Fort Sill, Sept. 3, 1975. She said she tries to make it to the run every year.
"It makes me feel great that people still remember, still care for the Soldiers who gave their lives for the country," she said.
Gold Star spouse Cindy Riddle, of Lawton, was at the run wearing the unit lapel pins of her late husband, Lt. Col. Ray Riddle. She said the run and ceremony mean a lot to her and her four children.
"I am deeply honored, and to see the troops in formation -- I think they appreciate it, too," she said.
This was the second time Army wife Sierra Bonds ran in the Run for the Fallen. She said she does something to honor fallen service members every year.
She ran in honor of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rob Hammett and Chaplain (Capt.) Dale Goetz, and wore photos of them on her running outfit.
She said her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Bonds, an air defender here, knew Hammett; and they both knew Goetz. "It was awesome and it's a good cause," she said of the event. "Everybody should get involved and do something for these guys who made the ultimate sacrifice."
Staff Sgt. John Baeza, Fort Sill Dental Activity Training and Operations noncommissioned officer, ran in the 5K. He said he loves supporting people, such as Gold Star families.
"The fallen Soldiers gave their lives for a cause that we are also here to do," he said."They put themselves in harm's way, and we're here to support them and show our thanks."