By Pfc. Lajaun HickmanNovember 16, 2006
BAGHDAD - Runners in the International Zone commemorated Veterans Day Saturday by participating in the Baghdad International Memorial Marathon.
Beating out 534 participants, Navy Cmdr. Matthew Simms of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence office, finished first with a time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, 24 seconds. The first female to finish was Capt. Kara Weigel of the 28th CombatSupport Hospital, with a time of 3 hours, 18 minutes, 18 seconds. The event was open to military, civilians and contractors and included runners from seven different countries.
Walkers began at 4 a.m. followed by the runners at 5 a.m. Teams were broken into several categories: 26-person teams, five-person teams, two-person teams and individuals who ran the entire 26.2 miles.
The route took runners through the IZ and past a few of Baghdad's historical landmarks, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Hands of Victory.
Team members and spectators provided motivation and support for runners and walkers throughout the morning.
Many, such as race director Capt. Henry Domeracki, operations chief, Multi-National Force - Iraq Civil Military Operations Directorate, showed up Saturday to honor the men and women who serve or have served their countries.
For Domeracki and his fellow military team members, nicknamed the "Dirty Dozen," the run was personal. They lost several buddies during their tour here, and they dedicated their efforts to the fallen, said Domeracki.
"Within two weeks of arriving in Iraq, two members of the Dirty Dozen and three of our enlisted battle buddies were hit by an IED. Sadly, Capt. Shane Mahaffee and Staff Sgt. Nathan Vacho died," Domeracki said.
"Staff Sgt. Berry lost one hand and part of another. Two other Civil Affairs members also lost their lives in that attack. Less than two weeks later, Lt. Col. Dan Holland, one of our most beloved classmates, was killed in another IED attack. Since then, there have been more civil affairs Soldiers killed and wounded", he added.
Bruce Rhoades and members of the Justice Department's Provincial Reconstruction Team ran to raise money for the children of the two fallen civil affairs Soldiers by taking pledges for marathon miles, collecting more than $5,000.
"We all have lost friends. We all have lost brothers and sisters in arms. For the Dirty Dozen, this race is for Capt. Shane Mahaffee, Staff Sgt. Nathan Vacho, Staff Sgt. Berry, Lt. Col. Dan Holland, and every other Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and civilian who were killed or injured in the defense of our country", Domeracki