“Their children are all of our children, their loved ones are all of ours and it's our responsibility as a community and as a nation to remember.” Theresa Johnson
FORT HOOD, Texas — Boots.
7,000 combat boots to be exact.
The boots lined the streets of Fort Hood to honor those fallen since 9/11.
The occasion was the Fort Hood Fisher House Hero & Remembrance Run, Walk or Roll, in which hundreds showed up to pay homage to the fallen.
A row of boots line a street during a Remembrance Walk, Run or Roll at Fort Hood, Texas on Nov. 1, 2014. Theresa Johnson, Fort Hood Fisher House manager and event coordinator, started the event in 2012 while stationed in Hawaii. Johnson, who has three sons, viewed Vimoto as a fourth son. (U.S Army photo by Sgt. Angel Turner, 1st Cav. Div.)
But for organizer Theresa Johnson, the 2.5 mile event had a special meaning. One of the boots lining the path belonged to her fourth son, Pfc. Timothy Vimoto.
Although not her son by birth, Timothy became close to Johnson and her Family while stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, together. The idea for the run was sparked by the remembrance of Timothy's 2007 death.
The day a father lost his son
His death took Johnson off guard, but it was Timothy's father, Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto, who had to give the news to his Family.
“All I thought about was, ‘how I am going to tell my wife and Family?'” Vimoto said. “The day Timothy died, it was the day before our transfer of authority ceremony,” said the senior Vimoto, who was Timothy's brigade command sergeant major at the time. He said he was walking back to the headquarters following a rehearsal when the unit received word that one of the subordinate units came under enemy fire.
The unit was Task Force ROK — his son's battalion.
Two were killed in action.
“I was sitting there listening,” he said.
It was Battle Company, 2nd Platoon — his son's unit.
“I was praying,” said Vimoto who is currently the command sergeant major for XVIII Airborne Corps . “I sent my silent prayer to the Lord — ‘I hope that's not my son.'”
Vimoto learned his son's team leader was shot in the shoulder.
Then he received the news — his son was gone.
“My boss came out and said, ‘Sergeant major, let's go for a walk. Let's walk to our office,'” Vimoto said. “I knew then the KIA was my son.”
“My boss hugged me, started crying and said, ‘Sergeant major, I'm so sorry. Your son didn't make it.'”
It was those words “...your son didn't make it,” that would later motivate the remembrance run organizer, Johnson, to put together an event to not only honor Timothy, but America's fallen.
“In 2012, I decided I wanted to do something, because my son was getting ready to deploy,” said Johnson, who started the remembrance event while stationed in Hawaii. “But I also wanted to honor Tim and his sacrifice and a couple of other friends of ours who lost their children.”
She said instead of just remembering Tim or a couple of people, she wanted to honor all or none.
“I thought the best way to do that was to bring back the names and faces,” she said.
“What I decided to do was get boots and find the pictures of everybody.” Johnson said the event is a way to give the community, both military and civilian, the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
“Their children are all of our children,” she said. “Their loved ones are all of ours, and it's our responsibility as a community and as a nation to remember.”
This year, Fort Hood and Fort Campbell took part in the event, which was the first time it was held outside of Hawaii. Although the Vimoto and Johnson Families were close, the command sergeant major, Isaia, said he did not know the event existed.
“I did not follow what Theresa did in Hawaii,” he said. “It wasn't until the run at Fort Hood, when my wife told me ... I was speechless.”
Fort Hood Remembers
It was a cool Saturday morning. Despite most people being sleep as the darkness still lingered in the morning air, Soldiers, friends and Families of the Fort Hood community gathered at Sadowski Field and waited for the run to begin.
At the start, those in attendance began running, walking and rolling along the route where the boots lined the roadways.
Although the morning air brought a few shivers to the crowd of people, it did not deter them from viewing the boots.
For one person, searching for a specific boot brought a bittersweet moment.
“It hit home for me,” said Nicole Harrell, as she searched for the boot of her fallen comrade, Spc. Luke Frist. “Although I've had other Soldiers that we've encountered loss with, I remember this one.”
The memories of Frist brought tears to her eyes, but she managed to smile while walking the line of boots.
A common scene throughout the route of boots was people bending down, taking photos and wiping away falling tears.
Now that Command Sgt. Maj. Vimoto, former senior enlisted advisor to the 1st Cavalry Division, knows about the event, he said he looks forward to being a part of that togetherness in the future.
Since more communities are adopting this, it's like throwing a rock into the water and now there is a ripple effect, Vimoto said. It sends a message.
Although Vimoto has not had the opportunity to take part in Johnson's event, he has read articles written about her and her efforts to spread the memory of America's fallen heroes.
What started out as one life turned into 7,000 boots, later turned into communities around the U.S. coming together to honor America's fallen heroes.
“I get goose bumps,” Vimoto said. “I feel ecstatic and honored that one person's initiative has affected a nation.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Angel Turner
Provided through DVIDS
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