On Saturday, runners from all over the state will be partipating in the third annual Connecticut Run for the Fallen, paying tribute to the heroes who have given their lives for our freedoms in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The run will begin in Ellington and will end at the track.
In 2008, a small group of runners traveled from California to Arlington National Cemetery, as they ran one mile in remembrance of every United States service man or woman that had lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The run took 10 weeks, and marked the beginning of the national Run for the Fallen movement.
Every year since then, runners have run in honor of those who lost their lives in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with over 150,000 collective miles of remembrance having been covered in the last four years.
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Many individual states have since founded their own runs, with Connecticut's first annual Run for the Fallen CT being held in 2010 at Glastonbury High School track. This inaugural event, while small, raised over $5,000 in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
In 2011, Run for the Fallen CT expanded to include an ultra run in addition to the track walk/run. The ultra run covered a mile for each of the 58 Connecticut servicemen that had lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom at that time, and culminated with a moving ceremony honoring our fallen heroes and their families. This time, the event raised over $10,000 in support of military charities which included the Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House, and the Connecticut Patriot Guard.
This year's event will be a 63 kilometer road event - split into five segments - ending at the Glastonbury High School track. Runners carrying American Flags and Honor and Remember Flags will be the focus of the ultra run. Connecticut Rolling Flags and members of the Patriot Guard Riders will provide front and back escorts for the entire run. Before each group leaves their starting point a short talk will be held where each heroes name will be read.
There will also be a special segment held at the track for "gold star" families - the families of the heroes being honored.
Once the ultra runners arrive, several local and state dignitaries will speak, and all of the Connecticut servicemen lost in OIF and OEF will be recognized. There will be a flower pot with a photo of each fallen soldier, and an Honor and Remember flag will be placed in each pot. A special Honor and Remember flag presentation will recognize two fallen servicemen from Glastonbury, Sgt. David Coullard and Sgt. Steven DeLuzio.
While the race will arrive at the track at approximately 1 p.m., activities such as face painting and a moon bounce will run from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Glastonbury High School.
Ultra run coordinator Jody Barr said that the purpose of this event is three-fold: to let everyone know that the sacrifices are not forgotten, to get these families who have experienced so much together, and to raise money.
However, the fundraising aspect isn't what you would see in traditional fundraising. Barr says that the goal is to have people involved and raise money for the families to do whatever with.
"We want them to raise money for themselves and start their scholarships and memorials – whatever they decide to do with it," he said, noting that Army Capt. Benjamin Sklaver's widow is part of the ClearWater Initiative where they strive to bring clean water solutions to Uganda.
Ellington resident Nancy Gresh is running the first part of the race, which is 6.8 miles and departs from the . This is her first year running it and says it is her small way of honoring those that gave their lives for us.
"My dad is a veteran of the Korean confilict, and I learned from his example to honor the men and women that served our country, both living and deceased," she said.
If you are not interested in running the race, volunteers are still needed. For more information or to run or volunteer, contact Barr at firstname.lastname@example.org.