America Supports You: North Carolina Group Honors State’s Fallen
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2008 More than 100 runners are expected to participate in a 99-mile run Aug. 23-24 hosted by a Greenville, N.C.-based care package group in honor of the 117 North Carolinians who have lost their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Barbara Whitehead, director of the North Carolina branch of Give2theTroops, said the group’s run is scheduled to coincide with the last two days of the national “Run for the Fallen.”
The national event will cover more than 4,000 miles, one mile for each servicemember killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the time it ends at Arlington National Cemetery on Aug. 24. It began at Fort Irwin, Calif., on June 14, Flag Day.
While the North Carolina event is for all of the state’s fallen troops, it was one in particular who sparked Give2theTroops to organize the event.
“We have a volunteer whose son died March 1, 2007, in Baquoba [Iraq],” Whitehead said. “She wanted to go, initially, to the national Run for the Fallen to run her son’s mile.”
Though that proved unfeasible because of the distance and cost of travel, her desire to honor her son prevailed. “She thought, ‘I want to run a mile for Ryan here, and then we can’t forget the other troops,’” Whitehead said. “So, we’re doing it on our own list of troops.”
The Give2theTroops run is open to anyone wanting to participate. Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., are scheduled to run in honor of their fallen comrades. Soldiers from Fort Bragg will do the same for their fallen.
No one is expected to complete all 99 miles, Whitehead said. In fact, participants aren’t even obligated to run.
“They can walk. They can ride a bicycle. We have some motorcyclists that have expressed interest in riding,” Whitehead said. “If there’s a grandmamma or a Great Aunt Sally who wants to put a flag on the car and ride along behind us, they’re welcome to do that.”
Give2theTroops is inviting participants to gather at the group’s headquarters late in the afternoon on Aug. 24. About a block from the center, they’ll be greeted by a Marine Corps honor guard, which will lead them into the building.
As they enjoy refreshments, visitors will be able to take in two Give2theTroops walls of honor. Honoring the servicemembers killed in Iraq, a midnight-blue wall bears more than 4,000 sponge-painted stars. A lighter blue wall bears tribute to those killed in Afghanistan, with 500 stars.
“At the corner, the apex of the two walls joining, is a floor-to-ceiling American flag painted on the wall,” Whitehead said.
The owner of the space, an area business that donates the building, the utilities and the maintenance, considers the walls too important to cover up. So, when the current missions end, the walls will be covered with Plexiglas and incorporated into the business’ office space, she said.
Whitehead said anyone who wants more information about the event or plans to join it mid-route can e-mail her at Barbara@give2thetroops.org.
Give2theTroops is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.