FORT LEE, Va. – The 2021 installment of the annual Run for the Fallen observance here will be an in-person event, although individuals are still welcome to participate virtually. The tribute to those who died in service to the nation is set for Sept. 11, 8:30 a.m., at Williams Stadium.
Last year’s iteration of RFTF was virtual only due to the pervasive threat of COVID-19. It also was the first time in the 11 years Fort Lee has hosted the event that planners rescheduled it from the traditional May observance to September.
Among the featured guests for this year’s RFTF are Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, and retired Col. Tamatha Patterson. She is a former 23rd Quartermaster Brigade commander and CASCOM G3/5/7 staff officer. She will likely share experiences related to losing her husband during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon 20 years ago.
RFTF will simultaneously serve as Fort Lee’s recognition of the 20-year-anniversary of 9-11.
In addition to the guest speakers, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) Silent Drill Team is scheduled to present its unique brand of drill and ceremony showmanship. The Training and Doctrine Command Band will provide event-appropriate music. The Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group will add patriotic pageantry as they have for years.
RFTF opens with a Gold Star family member march around the Williams Stadium track. Volunteers will carry large banners depicting fallen military members during the opening ceremony. Photos of the fallen also will be on display along the 5K run/1-mile walk course.
ACS Survivor Outreach Services coordinates RFTF. Support Coordinator Angela Bellamy said this year’s event would closely follow public health precautions to keep participants and staff safe. Even though this is an outdoor event, the wearing of masks is encouraged due to the expectation of large crowds and individuals coming in close proximity to each other.
Bellamy shared the enthusiasm she has witnessed about returning to a live event. “There is a great deal of excitement about being back together with our Gold Star families, showing appreciation and honoring their sacrifice as well as that of America’s fallen service members.”
SOS provides advocacy services and support to surviving family members of all military branches. In addition to RFTF, the Family and MWR entity here hosts events like the Gold Star Family dinner in September and the annual Memorial Garden Butterfly Release in May. The last in-person RFTF event in 2019 attracted about 7,400 participants.
“These events drive home the overarching message that survivors remain valued members of the DOD family,” Bellamy said. “We will give them a shoulder to lean on when they need it for as long as they need it.”
The Religious Services Office is collaborating with SOS for this year’s Run for the Fallen. Bellamy said Senior Command Chaplain Col. Thomas Allen is set to provide the opening invocation and will preside over a moment of silence in honor those lost and injured during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Patterson – whose husband Maj. Clifford L. Patterson Jr., died while working in the nation’s military headquarters – will represent survivors as one of the opening ceremony speakers. “It’s going to be really meaningful to hear her thoughts about that loss,” Bellamy said, noting she has heard the story during previous events the colonel spoke at while serving as a senior staff member here. “She is very excited about returning to Fort Lee and sharing her story with us.”
A military retiree with more than 20 years of service and several deployments, Patterson also is qualified to talk about the sacrifices she made as a Soldier answering the nation’s calls as a result of the 9-11 attacks.
Those planning to participate in RFTF will not have to register this year, Bellamy noted. Participant bibs will be available for pickup on Sept. 9 at ACS, or as early as 7 a.m. at the stadium on the day of the event. Would-be participants can pick up bibs on either day.
Those who participate in either the 5K run or 1-mile walk will be asked to record their distances on provided slips of paper and place them in boxes conveniently placed around the stadium.
No commemorative t-shirts will be provided this year, but Bellamy said she is confident participants will adorn the scene with a variety of vintage attire from past events.
RFTF will be livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/events/244011627570721/?active_tab=discussion. Like last year, organizers invite virtual participants to upload photos of them running or walking in support of RFTF to the event’s social media page. Well-wishers can post tribute messages there as well.
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