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On Saturday, one of the few tangible examples of supporting our troops took place.
A large number of folks gathered at the Aid Station, in Forest. They did so to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and to honor those that have sacrificed in the name of eradicating terror.
They did it by running.
They did it by walking.
They did it by cheering.
And they did it by donating time and financial resources toward those who have been wounded in the service of their country.
The Second Annual Heroes Run was unlike any road race you’ll see in these parts. It was equal parts athleticism, acknowledgement of sacrifice and patriotism.
The race drew 273 runners and walkers, many with a direct link to first responders and military personnel, others without anything other than a sense of respect for such folk.
The event included a 5K run and a one mile run. Most, including a color guard, opted for the longer dash.
Bob Starkey and Pete Page were both members of the color guard, carrying their flags proudly as they finished their three mile-plus run. When asked why he ran with the color guard, Starkey pointed to his US Naval Academy Class of ‘65 ring and said, “Honor.”
Page, who has not served in the military, ran alongside the grizzled vet. “I have a deep respect for anyone who swears to respect and defend,” said Page. “Especially not knowing what’s going to happen. I’m here because you are out there (serving).”
The theme of the race was to run a 5K for the 9K, according to race co-director Ed Breslow. The 9K refers to the 9,000 Americans who died in the 9/11 attacks and in the subsequent war on terror.
Proceeds from the event will be directed to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, according to the race’s other co-director, Steve Bozeman.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart’s mission, among others, is to assist our wounded warriors, such as staff sergeant Chris Walker, a soldier from Altavista.
Staff Sergeant Walker lost both arms and his left leg to an IED in Afghanistan. While the NCO wasn’t able to make it to the Forest run, his wishes were well represented by family members.
“It’s really encouraging to know that so many people care,” said his aunt, Sheila Little, of the event. “Chris has a military mindset. This would resonate with him.”
She added, “Chris’ spirit is outstanding. He feels, ‘This is what I’ve got. Let’s go’.”
Certainly, Staff Sergeant Walker’s comrades in arms came out in force. A platoon-sized group from the Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 116th Infantry took part.
Sergeant First Class Edward Austin, one of the ranking soldiers there, said, “We heard about the event and wanted to show our support. It’s for one of our comrades, Sergeant Walker. We want to help out our brother.”
Austin noted that his unit has had soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq on a fairly continuous basis. “It seems we’ve always had boots on the ground,” he said.
Organizers of the event made certain that it wasn’t just about the military. There were memorials to fallen firefighters and police officers, particularly those that perished in the 9/11 conflagration.
Bedford firefighter William Crumpacker ran with his whole family.
In fact, Crumpacker and his wife, Michelle, along with sons Caleb, 7, and Noah, 6, crossed the finish line as a family unit.
“My dad signed me up for it,” said Noah about why he’d run in the event. “It was my birthday present.”
Indeed, the wee runner received a birthday gift he’ll not soon forget. “I’ll tell my classmates (in Bedford Primary’s first grade) that it was fun,” Noah said.
Added Caleb, “I wanted to finish a 5K and I wanted to honor the soldiers and firemen.”
Not showing any parental influence in the least, Caleb added, “Firemen are great, and I want to be one when I grow up.”
Pam Robinson ran for purely selfless reasons. “I want to support our military personnel,” she said. “Last year’s race was so meaningful: I wanted to run again.”
Indeed, so did many, including a contingent of E.C. Glass JROTC cadets, who ran the entire course in formation.
“We’re all about giving back to the community,” said their leader, Senior Master Sergeant Donald Dougherty. “This is a good cause.”
Glass and Heritage JROTC students were spotted around the course, volunteering their time and talent to the cause, as did about 20 employees of Target. Well done, folks.
According to Breslow, last year’s event brought in about $2,000 for the community, through the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “This year should easily surpass that amount,” he predicted.
Certainly, proceeds will be tallied. Times, as with all races, were recorded, and medals were awarded.
These runners’ medals are quite different from those that many of the soldiers have earned
Yet, it is unlikely that any soldier would begrudge these civilian runners for claiming these prizes.
Certainly, they weren’t earned through valor. But they denote one of the few ways that civilians can show their support.
For the typical participant, it wasn’t a ton of effort. But every ounce of it is sure to be appreciated by those who bear lifetime wounds from their dedication to country.
And that means a lot to everyone.