More than 400 community members hit the trail running July 17 to honor fallen American heroes.
The third annual U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Run to Remember, supported by the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), brought community members together to run a half marathon or a five kilometer race in honor of service members killed in action.
“We are here today to race, but we are also here to pay tribute to our fallen comrades,” said Lt. Col. Isaac Peltier, 1st Battalion commander, as he addressed the runners before the start of the half-marathon.
“The course we will run today is symbolic of warriors,” he added. “It is tough. It is rugged. It is hard.”
The half marathon course, which wound through the Panzer Local Training Area, included three successive hills before the finish line.
However, it was a small sacrifice compared to the one so many Americans pay for our country, said Lt. Col. Guy Woodard, who is assigned to Special Operations Command Europe. Woodard ran for Maj. Paul Syverson, a fellow Special Forces team member, who was killed by a rocket in 2004.
Syverson’s name was one of 128 names — of both service members and civilians killed since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and in support of the War on Terror — submitted by community members during race registration, and printed on the race t-shirt. Before the start of the half-marathon, Dena Taylor, USAG Stuttgart Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness coordinator, read the list of names to the runners.
“This is for them,” Woodard said. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice and we’re just going for a run. That’s the least we can do.”
Runners represented several military units, tenant units, branches of service and garrison organizations, including the 554th Military Police Company, Special Operations Command Europe, 52nd Signal Company, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the Stuttgart Wellness Center and the Stuttgart Stallions running club.
The run also brought in nearly 100 volunteers who passed out water or served food at the Run to Remember barbecue, following the races.
The number of participants has increased each year, underscoring the importance of events like the Run to Remember.
“It exposes patriotism in the community,” Woodard said. “People rally. It’s incredible.”
Besides taking on the LTA course, many runners also contributed by attending the 1/10th SFG(A) pasta dinner fundraiser, held the night before the race. The dinner raised $1,100 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, according to Chaplain (Capt.) Charles Gordon, 1/10th SFG(A) chaplain.
Runners in both the half marathon and five kilometer run saw the races as a memorial ceremony, not just a chance to compete.
For Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Waggoner, even the date of the event had significance. On July 15, 2005, his gunner in Iraq, Spc. Jared Hartley, was killed while on patrol. Since then, Hartley’s family has hosted a memorial event on that weekend each year. “Today is the five-year anniversary,” Waggoner said.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jason English ran for Navy Lt. Michael McGreavy, Jr., a former classmate at the Naval Academy in 1997. McGreavy, a Navy SEAL, was killed during a deployment to Afghanistan.
“It hits home when it’s somebody you knew especially,” English said. “It makes you remember who you’re fighting for. You lose sight of it sometimes and these things bring it back to life.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Thode ran for Cpl. Dallas Kerns and Lance Cpl. Johnathan VanGuizen. “They were in 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. They died July 4, 2004. I went to boot camp with them,” Thode said.
Marine Lt. Col. Jim Glynn ran for his former sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Joseph Ellis.
During a deployment to Iraq in 2007, Glynn and Ellis were standing feet apart when Ellis was killed by a suicide bomb attack. Nine other Marines were killed during that deployment as well, Glynn added.
Navy Cmdr. Joe Greary ran for Petty Officer 1st Class Josh Harris, a Navy SEAL who was in Greary’s unit in Afghanistan in 2008.
“He was a great American,” Greary said. “It was his sixth deployment. He probably would have continued to deploy, had he not been killed.”
Although Hartley, McGreavy, Kerns, VanGuizen, Ellis, Harris and the thousands of other service members and civilians are now gone, they live on through events like the Run to Remember.
“It lets surviving friends and families know that we haven’t forgotten about their loves ones,” Greary said.