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Run for the Fallen touched with sadness and joy

August 21, 2011
U.S. Customs Officer Donovan Delude takes a moment before embarking on his leg of Saturday's Run for the Fallen to read to his son, Drake, the plaque telling of just one of the 44 fallen soldiers being honored, and to tell him what the run meant ... to them, to the families of the fallen, and to our country.
Editors Note: All the images on this page link to the original, high resolution image from which they were taken.
By Mike Weland
More than 200 gathered Saturday morning at the Veterans Memorial Park at the Boundary County Library to participate in Idaho's first "Run for the Fallen."
The first of Idaho's "Runs for the Fallen" was a solemn and moving event, but also one of joy, as more than 200 people paid tribute to the state's soldiers fallen in the line of duty in this nation's war on terror.

Few involved in organizing the event have any doubt but that what started in our small town will, in the years ahead, grow to become an Idaho tradition, moving each year from town to city to town, to all those places that have given their sons or daughters to the nation's cause.

While the Run honored 44 of Idaho's fallen, with a plaque bearing the name, picture and biography of each one at the beginning of each kilometer (to see those pictures and read the biographies, click here), the honor went further, to the families the fallen left behind, many of whom took part in Saturday's Run for the Fallen.

No one expected her, but Theresa Hart, whose son, Army Specialist Nicholas Newby, was one of two soldiers of the 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat team who died July 7 in Iraq, was there.

"We didn't even think to invite her," said organizer Jessica Collins Tingley, "we thought the pain would be too fresh, too overwhelming, but she came, saying she didn't want to miss being here."

Gold Star Mother Pat McCune, foreground, found comfort in meeting some of the many friends her son, Specialist James Riekena, had made before he died.
So was Pat McCune, Renton, Washington, the Mother of Specialist James Riekena, killed in action January 14, 2007, in Baghdad.

"I have a lot of memories," Pat said, "both good and bad. It's wonderful for me to see the outpouring of support and to be able to meet people James had become good friends with. The pain is beyond belief for every Gold Star family, and this makes it more bearable. I want to thank Bernie and her family for doing this, and thank them for including James."

"Bernie" is Bernadette Kirk-Bonner, the Mother of Sergeant Joshua J. Kirk, killed October 3, 2009, in Afghanistan. Josh enlisted in the Army while attending college in Maine, and Bernie and her family were invited to attend one of the early Runs for the Fallen there. The support and comfort they found, the knowing that the grief they felt wasn't theirs alone to bear, inspired Bernie to make Idaho the 45th state to host a Run for the Fallen, in Bonners Ferry because it's her home town.

"This isn't about Josh, nor is it about Bonners Ferry," she said. "This is about all this nation's fallen heroes."

Gold Star Mother Bernadette "Bernie" Kirk Bonner, the driving force behind bringing Idaho it's first Run for the Fallen, addresses the audience before the run begins.
Saturday's local Run for the Fallen was just one of many across the nation to take place over the weekend; each state participating setting aside one kilometer in remembrance of a fallen warrior so that all who've laid down their lives in this nation's wars since September 11, 2001, will not be forgotten, and so their families may know that they're not forgotten, either.

Many of those who took part in Saturday's Run were the comrades in arms of the fallen, there to show their respect and their support for the families bereft of a loved one. There was a color guard and rifle squad comprised of U.S. Air Force Airmen, there from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, to lend military dignity and solemnity to the event. A large contingent of the Patriot Guard Riders was there, their motorcycles gleaming, festooned with flags, each member a veteran of our nation's armed forces or a family member.

They formed a color guard of their own, silently standing vigil in the background, then led the runners on the actual Run, helping control traffic along the 44-kilometer route. At Runs' end, they led the entire group through the final kilometer, leading runners, walkers, bicyclists, baby strollers, pets on leashes, even the dignified "Martha Washington," Rebecca Huseby, who sang the National Anthem to open the ceremonies, through downtown Bonners Ferry to a picnic, a place people could talk, remember, laugh and cry, together.

SFC Lawrence Jefferson solemnly reads the names of 44 of Idaho's fallen in this nation's War on Terror.
At the outset, on a cool, clear early morning promising a hot day ahead, a prayer of remembrance was said in honor of the fallen, stressing the importance of never forgetting what they gave. Sergeant First Class Lawrence Jefferson, an airborne warrior who's fought in nearly every phase of our War on Terrorism, and who was severely wounded in Afghanistan, welcomed everyone and reminded them of why they came, then he read the names, hometowns, and dates they laid down their life of each of the 44 Idaho men and women, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, who fought and died in those wars.

The haunting strain of "Taps," played by an Air Force Airman, wafted over those gathered, the rifle squad fired a salute with precision and poise.

And then the runners left, most going to that special marker bearing the name of someone they loved or knew, someone they particularly wanted to remember. At many of the markers, tears flowed and prayers were said before the runner set out on their first steps. Throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, runners ran, walkers walked, riders sat astride their mounts and bicyclists pedaled before all met again at the Veterans' Memorial Park at the Boundary County Library.

There, Brigadier General Alan Gayheart, Assistant Adjutant General of the Idaho National Guard who has helped lead many of this state's soldier into battle, recalled the privilege of serving alongside such fine citizen-soldiers, and of the pain of not being able to bring them one and all home alive. He lauded all who helped organize this first of the state's Runs for the Fallen, thanking them and everyone who participated for their remembrance of this nation's finest.
Rebecca Huseby, dressed as Martha Washingon for the occasion, sings the National Anthem to begin the Bonners Ferry Run for the Fallen.
After the reading of the names of the 44 Idaho service men and women being remembered, the mournful sound of "Taps" sounded, played beautifully by an Airman from Fairchild Air Force Base.
After which a salute was fired with military precision by a Fairchild Air Force Base rifle squad.
As a Patriot Guard Riders color guard stood to attention ...
... Along with a Fairchild Air Force Base color guard, their active-duty comrades in arms.
After opening ceremonies, the Run for the Fallen began. Among the first to step out were Jessica Tingley, daughter of Bernadette Kirk-Bonner and sister of Sgt. Joshua Kirk, and her boyfriend, Adam Arthur.
People ran ...
... Rode bicycles ...
  ... And walked, with members of the Patriot Guard Riders pointing the way and helping to control traffic. 
Even Martha Washington strolled along with everyone else, though gowned in hoops and finery. 
Some even participated as groups, such as the crew from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, who ran, biked, walked and even rode horseback! 
Pitching in to help along the way by manning water and rest stations were members of Cub Scout Den 114 ... and a few of their friends!   
  After all but the final kilometer had been traversed, everyone met back up at the Veterans Memorial Park, where Brigadier General Alan Gayheart both thanked everyone for their effort and shared his personal remembrances of some of Idaho's Fallen.  
Then the Patriot Guard Riders mounted again to lead everyone along the last kilometer through downtown Bonners Ferry.   
Flags flews every step of the way, even waving from strollers being pushed by feet-weary parents! 
Until they all reached the fairgrounds, and a picnic that awaited them ... a place they could share a smile or a memory, talk about shared feelings ...   
  ... Or revisit once more the pictures and names of the 44 who gave their lives that we might live free. 
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