By David Poe/Northwest GuardianOctober 20, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Private First Class Kyle Farr braved the cool Gig Harbor waterfront morning and laced up his running shoes Sunday for a special race.
Also, a 68-year old Kyle Farr, salved up his arthritic knees to join his community for the worthwhile event. With them, a toe-headed 13-year old Kyle Farr fought the strong teenage inclination to sleep in on Sunday morning and instead decided to run, while a 6-year old Kyle Farr waved an American flag when the gun sounded the beginning of the first race.
In March 2009 after a long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, the real Kyle Farr, a South Sound native and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, died from over-medication while alone in a Maryland hotel room, but he walked among the living Sunday. Hundreds of friends, Family, acquaintances and strangers participated in a unique event, each evoking the memory and embodying the spirit of Kyle Farr.
Almost 2,000 participants from all walks of life gathered at the Gig Harbor YMCA to take part in the Race for a Soldier. The half-marathon, two-mile-run and Kids' Dash were held to remember Farr and servicemembers like him who suffer from PTSD and TBI, and to raise awareness and funds to help support them now 10 years into continuous conflict in Southwest Asia.
Leslie Mayne, Kyle's mother and a Gig Harbor resident, continues to be a vocal advocate for PTSD and TBI awareness. Her brother Kenny Mayne, a long-time personality for ESPN who was in attendance for the races, said when his sister lost her son, she herself became lost, but through supporting PTSD and TBI awareness and research, along with support from family, friends and the Puget Sound community, she has been found.
"(Kyle's death) kind of ruined my sister Leslie," he said, "but now she's no longer ruined -- she got behind something."
He also noted the contradiction the event symbolized.
"This whole event was born from another death from one of our wars and has turned into all of this life here today," he said. "I hope this rededicates all of us to do something for our Soldiers when they come back."
John Gleason, a retired truck driver and Vietnam veteran, and his wife Sylvia joined the Maynes and their extended family for Run for a Soldier. He said while he's some years past being able to run a half-marathon, he donated money to the USO's Race for a Soldier fund because though he never met Kyle Farr, he said he knows how hard it is to forget the realities of battle and the importance of helping care for those who selflessly carry that burden.
"Our generation of veterans always vowed we'd never let another generation go through what we did," he said. "This country has changed in 40 years but we still have a ways to go."
Overall winner Thomas Betterbed finished the half-marathon with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes, 42 seconds, while Tana Kornachuk, who won the Women's division of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Half Marathon last month, placed first for the womens' pack again with a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes, 5 seconds.
Kyle Farr has been gone for almost three years, but his legacy continues in the heart of a grieving mother, in the minds of those who ran and cheered Sunday, in the determination of those living with PTSD and TBI, and those who care for them today. Proof that where the Race for a Soldier may have ended by noon, the marathon for heightened awareness and care for today's combat veterans is ongoing.