Story and photos by Airman 1st Class Cliffton Dolezal of 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” rang from procession vehicles on a chilly and early morning, March 16 as the second annual Arkansas Run for the Fallen commenced. Families gathered on the sides of streets with signs and American flags to pay their respects as droning bagpipes passed by. The sound of their song stirred bittersweet emotions that only the families of the fallen heroes know.
“The sacrifices that their brave sons and daughters made will never be forgotten so long as blood courses through my veins,” said Senior Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, 19th Logistic Readiness Squadron First sergeant and creator of the run. “I told the volunteers for this year, (which included bikers, runners, state police, as well as military personnel and civilians), to remember who and what they were running for. I said their pain from running six miles is nothing compared to the pain these families have to endure for the rest of their lives. You are running because these fallen service members no longer can.”
The two-day event began in Ozark, Ark., after a small ceremony and the singing of the national anthem. This year, runners were grouped in four-person teams. One runner carried the American flag, the second, the Arkansas state flag, the third, the Remember the Fallen flag, and the fourth a smaller American flag attached with the biography of the fallen service member.
Every mile, for 131 miles, a member of the running group read the biography, rendered a salute and placed the smaller American flag in the ground at the location of that fallen service member’s designated memorial site. Once the final runners reached the state Capitol, the ending ceremony included a guest speaker, thankful remarks from Beason, the reading of a letter from a mother to a fallen son, the reading of the names of the fallen and a 21-gun salute.
This run gives family members of the fallen a method to heal and a way to celebrate tragic loss. Many times Beason said he has received emails from gold-star mothers expressing how much the run means to their family. Beason explained that a gold-star mother is the mother of a fallen service member, whereas a blue-star mother is the mother of a service member who’s still alive.
“When you get to see a gold-star family for the first time and you put a flag in the ground and see the family break down in tears, you realize while you’re doing something so simple by running a mile and putting a flag down, it’s so much more for the families because in their hearts and their minds they know their loved one is not forgotten,” said Beason.
Beason said he wants the run to continue to grow.
“Two weeks after these people die, the only people who remember are their family, which is an injustice,” he said. “I’ve got passion for this. To me, this is a self-reward to make sure that the families realize that we’re still trying to remember them for what they did. I would hope that there would be someone out there to keep my memory alive.”
As a gold-star mother read her letter aloud to the crowd, she gave everyone there one final thought to take with them. She said, “I hope what I have just done is put a picture in your mind of a solider from Arkansas, one of our boys, because that’s who we honored yesterday and today in those runs. Those are the people that have fought for our country and have fought for our nation and I am blessed to be the mother of one.”
For more information on this story, watch the news video on littlerock.af.mil and the Little Rock AFB Facebook page.