BY Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Men and women from all branches of military service ride different waves of military life. Some are fortunate enough to come and go deployment after deployment, while some are even luckier to never have to leave their friends and family to the experience of saying goodbye and hoping for a speedy return.
While some families can attest to this fortune, others cannot. Over the last 15 years, throughout the state of Arkansas, more than 100 service members have paid the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives in service to their country. Their friends and family are left behind to hold their memory close, sometimes with overwhelming results.
The Arkansas Run for the Fallen March remembers these fallen Arkansans March 18-20. From Ozark, Ark. to the steps of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Arkansans cheer on the runners, waving flags and sending positive motivation. At each memorial, which are often the most sentimental and difficult aspects of the run, the same support is provided to service members and Gold Star families.
“Some of these people died 15 years ago. One time out of the year, though, somebody honors them and their families -- and that is important to us,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, the run coordinator. Each mile will be marked in memory of a fallen service member. The team running the mile will stop at the marker, read the biography of the fallen member and place the flag with the biography at the memorial site in honor of the member.
Supporters and Gold Star families line the streets during the run. Emotions are often high during the flag placement. Mothers, brothers, fathers and sisters show up to honor their fallen hero. The run provides the families with the opportunity to heal amidst tragic loss; and the chief said it is humbling to be a small part of keeping the members’ memories alive.
“Every year you see somebody change, whether it’s subtle or instant,” said Beason. “Last year, a group of guys ran who seemed a little prideful. Their attitude changed after running up to a mile marker and meeting a mom. They didn’t want to leave her.”
“It isn’t about the guys wanting to ride 144 miles or getting your picture in the paper -- it’s about the families,” he said.
The run ends at the Capitol building in Little Rock, with guest speakers, a reading of a letter from a Gold Star mother to the fallen son and the reading of the names of the fallen and a 21-gun salute.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.arkansasrunforthefallen.org.