By Will Ravenstein, Fort Riley Public AffairsJune 11, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- As the Special Olympic Flame of Hope traveled through Fort Riley May 31, members of the 97th Military Police Battalion carried it from the Ogden Gate out to a waiting crowd of athletes outside the Grant Ave. Gate.
In Grant Park members of the Junction City PaceSetters cheered on the MPs as they came to a halt in formation after running the 6 miles, gate-to-gate.
Carrying the torch the final leg was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native 1st Lt. Sam Lombardo. This honor made the day special for Lombardo as his 8-month-old daughter, Gwynneth, was diagnosed with Aicardi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that interferes with the formation of the corpus callosum, which is the structure that connects the two sides of the brain. In people with Aicardi syndrome, the corpus callosum is either partially or completely missing. The disorder occurs primarily in newborn girls.
"I told myself I wanted to do it," Lombardo said. "It's for the kids, it's for the community and you really don't understand how important this stuff is to some families until it hits close to home."
Lombardo also credits the support that he has received from the battalion leadership.
"Everybody that is a part of my life, leadership-wise, has helped me out in this whole situation tremendously," he said. "They've helped my family out in more ways than I can count. They continue to do so for my future in the Army. There is not a better unit on post, there really is not. The leadership truly cares about Soldiers. Every leader says they care about family until the time comes when they have to deal with family, their actions have been absolutely amazing when it comes to my family."
For 97th MP Bn., Executive Officer, Maj. Laura Weimers, this was the first time she has been able to partake in the event.
"I was caught in meetings the last few years, so this was a privilege," she said. "This was awesome. To know that we are kind of that conduit between Riley County at the other side, at the Ogden Gate, and passing it off to Junction City. Our partnership with law enforcement goes on so many different levels and to be able to be the "Guardians" of the torch for the Special Olympics is pretty special."
Near the halfway point at Building 500, 1st Lt. Joshua Love, 287th Military Police Company rear-detachment commander, 97th MP Bn., stated that the event was one of the coolest things he will do all summer.
"At least for me, it shows that we support everything they stand for and what they do," the Bonfield, Illinois, native said. "It's just one small way we can contribute back to the community and to Special Olympics and go on a little run with them."
Love has participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run since arriving at Fort Riley in 2016, and feel that it is important for his Soldiers to partake in the event.
"It's very important for them to see what we do not just as a Military Police Company, but what we do for our community as well," he said. "To share that with the Soldiers is just invaluable."