By Larry Reilly
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs
Hundreds of community members listened in silence as the names of 125 service members who lost their lives defending our nation echoed across Panzer Kaserne’s parade field.
They gathered July 27 for the 12th Annual Run to Remember half-marathon and 5K run, co-hosted by Stuttgart Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation and members from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
The skies threatened to rain throughout the morning. Sprinkles came down during the opening remarks and the reading of the names. However, the rain stopped just in time for participants to run. It’s a celebration of American grit and military sacrifice, one Special Forces officer said.
“It allows us to reflect on what they meant to each of us personally, what they mean to the community and to the nation as a whole,” the senior officer said prior to the start of the runs, addressing the runners. “There is a somber note to this event and rightfully so. I would ask that you also make this day a celebration of the lives that the fallen lived. This run is about maintaining their legacy and running for those who cannot any longer.”
A series of large photos of fallen Special Forces Soldiers lined the side of the street where runners started and finished.
Not all runners knew the Soldiers whose pictures they passed or the service members whose names were on the dog tags they wore. But, for those who did, the run served as a reality check.
“When I was looking at the names on the dog tags, I came across a name that sent shivers through me. It was a Soldier who was a student of mine when I was an instructor at the Maneuver Captain’s Course,” Lt. Col. Vern Theis said. “I ran for Maj. Andrew Myers, and throughout the run, I reflected on the time I had with him during the six-month course. I also reflected on the time that has passed since knowing him, and all the things that have happened in my life since then; realizing he may not have had those moments; it was a real reality check for me.”
After crossing the finish line, the runners came to a battlefield memorial that included a set of combat boots, helmet and weapon. Many saluted the memorial as they placed the dog tags, others reflected on the service member they had run for.
Youth ruled in the half-marathon run. The first place male, Jackson Barriger; 1.33:15 and first place female McKinley Fielding; 1.36:05 are both Stuttgart High School students.