JTF Bravo Runs 388 Miles in Remembrance of POW/MIAs
By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, Oct. 15, 2007 Soldiers, airmen and sailors here completed a remembrance run Oct. 12 in honor of prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The first group of runners in the Joint Task Force-Bravo Prisoner of War/Missing in Action 24-hour Remembrance Run complete their first lap at about 9:02 a.m. Oct. 11, 2007. About 170 participants ran in mostly 15-minute intervals for 24 hours to show support for their fellow servicemembers who have been listed as POW/MIA. Photo by Staff Sgt. Austin M. May, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
About 170 runners took part in the 24-hour event at the base track. Laps were completed with each runner carrying a baton and reflecting on the sacrifice of those who are listed as POW or MIA. The runners logged a cumulative distance of 388 miles, with the ceremonial baton traveling 168 miles during the event.
“Each base organization had points of contacts who organized the volunteer runners,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Daryl Brunelle, Soto Cano fire chief, who helped organize and plan the event. “The first group and the last group carried the POW/MIA flag, and the rest of the runners kept the baton moving throughout the night.”
Air Force Col. Howard Jones, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Bravo, said the purpose of the ceremony was to remember those “who have endured special hardships and who have seen combat, and even human nature, from a very unique perspective.”
“We’re proud to demonstrate our strong bond to them and each other with a 24-hour run,” he said. “Our remembrance, our recognition and our running tie us to something much larger than ourselves. POWs and MIAs still express the essence of what service to a higher calling really means.”
During the run, at least two servicemembers went the “extra mile” to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brandon Williford, 612th Air Base Squadron, ran a total of 26.25 miles, and Army Sgt. Pete Schaffer ran a total of 29.5 miles during the event.
Williford said he credits his distance to his marathon training prior to his assignment to Soto Cano. “I had been training last year, and I ran a half-marathon in February,” he said. “I felt really good after 12 miles. I figured I could split it up and do it as many (short) blocks.”
Schaffer, who completed a 32-mile, two-day road march earlier this year, ran 14 laps with the baton and then paced himself as if it were a road march, putting “one foot in front of the other,” he said. The sergeant said he stopped only for short naps and food between 8:15 p.m. and 9 a.m., the next morning.
“We’re doing this in remembrance of all the POWs and MIAs,” he said. “They were malnourished, beaten and had no sleep. They continued to push themselves through all of that, so there’s no reason I couldn’t push myself in memory of them.”
The event had special meaning for Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Reynolds, 612th ABS. The remains of his great, great grandfather, Pvt. Wilson Wilkes Dozier, were identified last month in a Kentucky cemetery.
Private Dozier served during the Civil War with the Scoggins Light Artillery Battalion from Georgia and died on Sept. 23, 1862 from “black measles,” which is believed to be an early form of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
“He was buried in an unmarked grave for 145 years,” Reynolds said. “My grandfather started research 60 years ago, and we finished what he started. On Sept. 21, POW/MIA Day this year, he got a headstone.”
Reynolds, who also helped organize the ceremony here, said he has always enjoyed planning POW/MIA recognition events. “My dad was a fighter jock in Vietnam and his best friend was lost over Laos. One of my earliest memories was the blue sedan pulling up to tell his family,” he recalled of his days living in base housing as a military dependent.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs is assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs.)