Half-Marathon Honors Fallen Warriors
(March 8, 2010)
Air Force Senior Airman Matthew Klundt, from Fresno, Calif., of the 732nd
Expeditionary Security Forces Squad, carries an American flag as he crosses the
finish line to claim first place in the Fallen Soldier Half-Marathon run Feb.
28, in Taji, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski
||CAMP TAJI, Iraq (March 1, 2010) -- Despite
the constant rain, servicemembers from all
military branches came together for the Fallen
Soldier Half-Marathon Feb. 28, to pay tribute to
those who died in support of Operation Iraqi
The race was the idea of Master Sgt. Jovana
Meyer, from Belton, Texas, operations
noncommissioned officer in charge, 4th
Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air
Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who said
she wanted to commemorate those lives lost.
"It's a good way to honor and remember the
fallen Soldiers that became heroes here since
2003 ... who gave their lives and made the
ultimate sacrifice," Meyer said.
The idea first came to her while on rear
detachment during 1st ACB's previous deployment,
which lasted from 2006-2008, Meyer explained.
"When I was rear (detachment) for 15 months at
Fort Hood, I ended up being the casualty
assistance officer for three widows and casualty
notification officer for two others," Meyer
said. "I know what the widows, the parents, and
their kids go through."
The run is Meyer's way of letting the bereaved
families know that their fallen Soldiers aren't
"The families in the back tend to think we
forget and move on - but we never forget," she
said. "By coordinating this event for the fallen
Soldiers, it allows them to remember, 'Hey, they haven't forgotten about my son
or daughter, or my husband or wife.'"
Meyer said she has lost friends in Iraq, which makes it personal for her, making
the run a good way to exit Iraq as her tour continues to draw down.|
"It's a way for all the services to unite as one; Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force
and civilians. Let's all unite to remember, reflect and honor the fallen Soldier
... the fallen hero," Meyer said.
The maximum number of registered participants, 400, took part, Meyer said.
During his speech before the run, Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum, from Newport News,
Va., deputy commander, 1st Armored Division, U.S. Division - Central, said the
run means something to all those who have lost a friend in combat.
"This is personal for so many of us ... it's personal to me because on October
19, 2001, during the first combat action of the war on terror in Northern
Pakistan, two Army Rangers died in one of my aircraft," Mangum said. "The
thousands who have given their lives since is certainly something we will never,
ever forget. That's our vow and our commitment," he said.
Mangum said all the military runners volunteered to serve, making any adverse
weather conditions an easy barrier to overcome.
"For many of you, your decision to run today is very courageous. With each and
every step, never forget those fallen Soldiers," Mangum said. "The track may
have been made harder with the rain, but I know everyone will finish."
"Whether you're running to win or running to finish, this is a noble pursuit,"
Meyer said she hoped to continue the event in the States and make it a
"I hope I can take this back to America because there's no other race out there
that is held for the fallen Soldier," Meyer said. "Maybe in 10 years, we could
do it for every fallen Soldier in America from every war."
The response from fellow Soldiers has been positive for Meyer, which is a great
reward for all her hard work.
"It's been overwhelming walking around Camp Taji and having people coming up to
me, seeing my name and saying, 'Thank you so much. I'm going to run for my
friend or my brother,'" she said. "It's definitely a proper exit for those of us
preparing to leave here."
By Army Sgt. Alun Thomas
1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., USD-C
Army News Service /
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