Thursday, March 20, 2014

TOP STORY>>Running for the Fallen

By Airman 1st Class Cliffton Dolezal
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With the traditional firing of the Ozark High cannon the third annual Arkansas Run for the Fallen was underway March 14. Family and friends gathered on the sides of streets with signs and American flags to support the runners and pay their respects to fallen Arkansans as they passed through small towns in central Arkansas.

“The sacrifices that their brave sons and daughters made will never be forgotten so long as blood courses through my veins,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, 19th Logistic Readiness Squadron fabrications flight chief and creator of the Arkansas Run for the Fallen. “I told the volunteers for this year, 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 three-day event began in Ozarks, Ark., after a small ceremony and the singing of the national anthem. Volunteers this year included bikers, runners, state police, as well as military personnel and civilians. This year, runners were grouped in five-person teams. One runner carried the American flag, the second, the Arkansas state flag, the third, the Remember the Fallen flag, the fourth, the Prisoner of War, Missing in Action flag and the fifth a smaller American flag attached with the biography of the fallen hero, to include name, rank, location and information about how the individual was killed in action.

Every mile, for 133 miles, a member of the running group read the biography card, placed it in the ground at the designated memorial site for the fallen service member, rendered a salute and hugged the family members of the fallen before grabbing the flags and pressing onward to the next mile marker. The run concluded at the state Capitol with a guest speaker, thankful remarks from Beason, a word from a gold-star mother, the reading of the 133 names of the fallen Arkansans, and finished with a 21-gun salute performed by Little Rock Air Force Base’s honor guard.

The purpose of the run is to give family members of the fallen a method to heal and to honor those that have been lost. Many times Beason said he has received emails from gold-star parents expressing how much the run means to their family. Beason explained that a gold-star parent is the parent of a fallen service member, whereas a blue-star parent is the parent of a service member who’s still actively serving.

“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 went on to say he hopes the event continues to grow by introducing more sponsors and volunteers next year.

“Two weeks after these people die, the only people who remember are their families, which is an injustice,” he said.

If there was one message Beason could leave with those who ran, watched, participated or just read about the run, he said it would be two simple words.

“Never forget.”

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