By Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal
19th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs
March 20-22 marked the fourth annual Arkansas Run for the Fallen. Service members from all branches ran 146 miles dedicating each mile to a fallen hero.
Runners, who carried a small American Flag with a biography attached to it, made their way through the normally bustling streets of Ozark, with only one objective in mind, to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The biography card tells the story of a fallen Arkansan who has lost their life protecting the rights and freedoms all Americans enjoy.
The running team stopped at each mile where they present an American Flag and a biographical card in honor of a fallen service member in an effort to create a 146-mile memorial trail through Arkansas. Once they placed the flag into the ground at the designated memorial site for the fallen service member, the team then rendered a salute and hugged the family members who patiently waited at their loved ones designated memorial, before grabbing their flags and pressing forth to the next hero.
According to the official Arkansas Run for the Fallen website, their mission is to raise awareness for the native Arkansans who fought and died supporting the Global War on Terrorism. The purpose is also to provide support, hope and healing to families grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military service regardless of relationship or circumstance of death.
“The cost that the families of these brave sons and daughters have made will never be forgotten so long as blood courses through my veins,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief and creator of the Arkansas Run for the Fallen.
For the fourth year in a row, the three-day event began in Ozark, after a small ceremony and the singing of the national anthem. Volunteers this year included bikers from the group Rolling Thunder, runners, state police, as well as military personnel and civilians.
This year, runners were grouped into 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.
“I’m very passionate about this,” Beason said. “I read a quote once that said, ‘One person with passion can accomplish more than 40 people with an interest.’ I’ve got passion for this. To me, this is a calling.”
Beason said he discovered his calling March 27, 2007. He was participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico, a 26.2-mile ruck march through desert terrain symbolizing the march that American and Philippine soldiers endured at the hands of the Japanese in World War II. It wasn’t the race, however, that made the impression that would stay with Beason for life. It was a chance encounter with Janice Bridges, a Gold Star Mother. Her son, Michael Paul Bridges, was killed while serving in Iraq. Bridges introduced herself to Beason as a Gold Star Mother. He had never heard of the organization and questioned her about it.
“I was so embarrassed,” he said. “I was speechless. I looked like a fool.”
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.
Beason loves meeting and helping gold-star families in any way he can; that’s why Beason was chosen as the 2009 USO Service member of the Year. He was also named as the 2009 Chevy Everyday American Hero and was honored with a trip to the 43rd annual Country Music Awards because of his involvement in these events. He won the 2014 Spirit of Hope.
Humbly, he said he only does what he is supposed to do. None of his participation, he said, is worthy of any kind of accolades.
Beason, who also started the New Jersey Run for the Fallen has since helped others to create their own. South Carolina and California have followed suit and Beason is sure that more will pop up in the next few years.
Beason went on to say he hopes the event continues to grow by introducing more sponsors and volunteers next year.