2009 - 2nd Annual
500+ participants & spectators
(more event pictures below story)
This is a true story. This is my story.
By: Deb Benson
Founder/Pres.-Grateful American Coin
Sunday, August 23rd, I approached the 2nd Annual Run for the Fallen registration table to retrieve my bib and hero’s name I would honor. There were over 280 fallen Floridian names and a few hundred more from across the country. I received a fallen hero’s name from another state and awkwardly requested a Floridian. I felt odd since they are all heroes regardless of where they lived. There weren’t anymore Florida names for the 5k run; but there was a Florida hero for the 1 mile walk. I took the 1 mile bib to run the 5k in honor of Sgt. Lea R. Mills, Brooksville, FL.
Bib pinned to the back of my shirt and coin in my hand, I met up with my friends wearing our Grateful American Coin (GAC) t-shirts. We read the names on each other’s backs. I held my coin knowing I would find the right person to coin out of so many deserving participants honoring the fallen.
One friend, Colleen, talked of her 1st Annual Run experience. She was the only one in our group who had participated. She explained how she searched for information about the fallen hero she honored and while she couldn’t find her hero’s family’s address, she found the church he belonged to. Colleen mailed the Pastor her bib, a coin and a note for the family and requested he get it to them. She later received a call from his family to thank her and how they were touched by her gesture.
Our group split up as we mixed and mingled with others before the race began. The announcement came overhead to huddle around the pavilion for the presentation of our colors. I scanned the crowd for a friend in a GAC t-shirt. I noticed my friend Robert towards the front. I wormed my way through the crowd to stand next to him with coin in hand and thoughts of searching the web to locate Sgt. Mills’ family upon returning home.
Cyd welcomed and thanked the participants and then read Colleen’s testimonial from the year before. She requested a call to action for others to find out more about their heroes and where possible, send a note to the family. I vowed to do the same.
We recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and a woman said to me, “You’re running for our boy. Sgt. Mills is our son.” We hugged, I gave her a coin, I cried. We stood and sang the Star Spangled Banner.
I asked Robert to take a picture of us. He was quite surprised as he knows I have such an aversion to having my picture taken that you’d think I was in the witness protection program. We posed, smiled, hugged and click.
The race began. With a heavy heart, I ran feeling Sgt. Mills was with me, his parents behind me. I pictured him, although I didn’t know what he looked like. I wondered if he was a daddy or brother, when he died and if he was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. What I did know was his parents are proud.
As I approached the final mile, in typical Florida summer fashion, the thunderheads rolled in. You could see the wave of showers up ahead moving closer as steam came up from the hot pavement. With a dark sky on one side, the sun shining on the other, a beautiful rainbow was in between. As I looked at the colors, I said a prayer for Sgt. Mills and for that moment, there was a sense of peace within.
So from a Grateful American to an American hero, this is my story. Sgt. Lea R. Mills will never be forgotten.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kymberly Sardinas
2nd Annual Run For the Fallen hosted by T.A.M.P.A.
5K & 1 mile RUN/WALK TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR NATIONAL
“RUN FOR THE FALLEN”
“Run for the Fallen” Relay Team Has Covered One Mile for Each Fallen Service Member in Run
From California to Arlington National Cemetery
Tampa, Florida – In coordination with the final day of the cross-country memorial run, “Run for the Fallen,” the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association/T.A.M.P.A. has organized a 5K & 1 mile walk/run. The miles to be run at this event will be pledged towards a national total of miles for all fallen service members. As of today, on August 23 there will be remembrance runs held in 23 states. Runners have pledged thousands of milesfor all fallen marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen.
“Run For the Fallen” is a national memorial run that will collectively run one mile for every service member killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The run will take place during the weekend of Aug. 22/23, 2009. It is on this weekend that “Run for the Fallen” is encouraging people across the country to run in honor of our fallen service members from both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
To date the state of Florida has lost 228 military men and women serving in these two conflicts. T.A.M.P.A.’s goal for this year’s event is to have a walking/running representative for each of Florida’s fallen and additional participants representing each state. Each participant will receive a bib with the name and information of a specific fallen hero which they will represent and a small flag which will be used to create a memorial at the race site during the opening ceremony. We will need the full support of our communities to make this event a success.
This FREE event will be held on Sunday, August 23rd , at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin with registration at 8:00a.m., opening ceremony at 9:00a.m. and the walk/runs immediately following. Pre-registration is requested so we can verify our participant numbers in order to reach our goal. Registration and information can be found at http://www.usmcfamilysupport.org/, by calling (813)965-2682 or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: The Tampa Area Marine Parents Association
WHAT: 2nd Annual “Run For the Fallen” Final Day Event Memorial 5K/1 mile Run & Walk
WHEN: Sunday, August 23, 2009
WHERE: E.G. Simmons Park 2401 – 19th Ave. N.W./just off US 41 in S. Hillsborough County Ruskin, FL
About Run for the Fallen:
Run for the Fallen began as a cross-country memorial run that took place during the summer of 2008 that ran one mile for every soldier killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The team ran in a relay style, spanning over 4,000 miles from Painted Rocks in California to Arlington National Cemetery. Runners marked each mile of their cross-country journey with an American flag and personalized sign card in honor of every fallen service member. Jon Bellona, director and founder of Run for the Fallen, developed the idea for the run when his best friend and Hamilton College roommate, 1st Lt. Michael J. Cleary, was killed in Iraq in December 2005.For more information or to track the 2009 event, please visit www.runforthefallen.org.