HONOLULU, Hawaii - Cannon fire and cadence filled the air as the Sounds of Freedom participants led the field to start the 2020 Great Aloha Run on the morning of Feb. 17. This year, the "Sounds of Freedom" consisted of more than 2,400 service members from all branches of service along with members of local area Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs running together in formation alongside competitors of the Great Aloha Run building camaraderie with each other and the Hawaiian community.
Prior to the start of the event, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Hawaii, expressed his gratitude everyone in attendance.
"We could not do what we do without the support of the Hawaiian community, so we are very thankful to be a part of this event. I look forward to seeing everyone at the finish line."
Making their way along the 8.15 mile route, the Sounds of Freedom formation called cadence to the sounds of cheers from spectators and the spirit of aloha.
"The atmosphere was really motivating to be honest," said Spc. Chandradat Dhanraj, a supply specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Division Artillery, 25th Infantry Division. "With people cheering from both sides and the music they were playing, it really kept me going. I was surprised to see so many people out there supporting."
The event is described online as a run for anyone who wants to participate living up to the Hawaiian name for the race, "Ke kukini me ke aloha pau'ole," meaning, "The race with compassionate love."
The compassionate love was on full display throughout the entire event.
"It felt like everyone watching got extra excited when we ran by in formation," explained Dhanraj. "I think it helped the locals to see that we aren't just a bunch of Soldiers, but that we are also doing our part to be involved in their community and culture."
As the run came to an end inside Aloha Stadium, there was a sense of accomplishment felt by many of the runners.
"I felt proud of myself when I crossed the finish line because I realized I just ran over eight miles without stopping at all; while carrying the battalion colors," said Dhanraj. "It was an amazing feeling to hear my commander say "you did it, good job." It was a fun event and I'll definitely be participating in it next time."
At the finish line, Maj. Gen. Jarrard and, Command Sgt. Maj. William Pouliot, 25th Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major, assisted event organizers in handing out awards to the winners of the male and female military categories which consisted of service members taking part in the event separate from the Sounds of Freedom.