By Somer Breeze-Hanson, Northwest GuardianSeptember 16, 2011
Teresa Maggart's first choice in music doesn't usually include bands such as Linkin Park and Metallica. But they were for her husband.
Whenever Maggart is outside running she's listening to a music compilation on an iPod Touch that belonged to her husband, Brandon Maggart. The iPod was flown back home from Iraq to Teresa after Brandon died of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked Aug. 22, 2010.
"When I'm running and listening to his music, I feel closer to Brandon," Teresa said.
Teresa, 28, was never a runner until last spring. She noticed American flags lining the streets of DuPont and blue T-shirts that read "wear blue: run to remember." Always interested in ways to honor her husband of four years, Teresa, along with her then 3-year-old son Blake, attended a weekly wear blue: run to remember Saturday run.
"She was a little intimidated," said Georgie Hanlin of the wear blue group. "We exist because of her basically. It's such an amazing group and I wanted it to be that for her."
Wear blue: run to remember was founded in February 2010 by Lisa Hallett, whose husband, Capt. John Hallett III, was killed in Afghanistan Aug. 25, 2009. The group's mission is to establish a running community that serves as a living memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of fallen Soldiers and to support the community affected by the loss.
It was just what Teresa needed.
"The first time I met them I felt this incredible support and they didn't even know me," Teresa said.
"They talked me through some stuff and were so welcoming."
Since that initial day Teresa has been running to heal.
Brandon was deployed in January 2010 for his second tour in Iraq. On Aug. 21, 2010 Teresa talked to Brandon on Skype as her and Blake prepared to fly to their home state of Missouri for Blake's third birthday party. When Brandon wasn't on Skype for the party the next day Teresa assumed he was working, but later that day was notified the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment had been attacked. A mortar hit Brandon's room while he was sleeping. He was the only Soldier with the 5-5 ADA killed during their yearlong deployment. He was 24.
Brandon spent his entire Army career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since he signed over to active duty in 2006. They had flown out to JBLM on their wedding night.
"This is where our Family lived," Teresa said. "I tried to imagine going back home. Our Families are there but here is where my support is and I'm not ready to leave all that."
The wear blue: run to remember group was there for Teresa when she felt isolated and needed support. She received a support system of women who understood and lived through her pain. Women like Lisa Hallett gave her hope.
For the one-year anniversary of Brandon's passing Teresa planned a memorial run in her husband's honor Aug. 13. With the help of Maj. Susan Recella, the rear detachment commander during Brandon's deployment, the 5-5 ADA ran behind Teresa with the guidon and calling cadence. About 70 people came out to run for the Maggarts.
"It was overwhelming support," Teresa said. "There were times when I felt like I wanted to quit, but they were running behind me and they were calling cadences with Brandon's name. That's what pushed me."
Teresa ran a 5K for the first time that day -- the farthest she ever ran.
But it won't stop there. Teresa continues to log miles and aspires to some day compete in a half marathon. Whatever distance, whatever place, she knows Brandon's with her.
"When I'm thinking I want to quit I think about Brandon and everything he did being away from his Family and making the ultimate sacrifice, running just seems so little."
Aside from running, Teresa credits her faith in God and her son for helping her get through the last year. She sees so much of her husband in Blake. One night after she had put Blake to bed she had an emotional moment. Blake walked downstairs and asked her what was wrong. She explained she was sad and missed his daddy.
"He put his hand on his hip and said, 'Quit crying you big baby,' and then went back to bed," Teresa said. "Then I couldn't stop laughing."
Teresa and Blake flew to Missouri to visit Brandon at the Jacksonville Cemetery on the anniversary day.
Four Square Church in Puyallup recognized Brandon for a special 9/11 tribute. Later that night Teresa and other members of the wear blue: run to remember group participated in a 9/11 memorial run.
Blake was there, too, wearing his blue T-shirt. The back of it reads "I run for Daddy."