'Run for Freedom' at Old Dominion University Honors War Dead
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 7, 2004 Navy and Army ROTC members, as well as students, faculty and staff at Old Dominion University and the local community are lapping the school's perimeter in Norfolk, Va., during a six-day "Run for Freedom" to honor every U.S. service member killed during the war on terror.
Organized by Jason Redman, a Navy SEAL attending the university through the Navy's Seaman to Admiral Program, the event is a fundraiser to benefit families of fallen service members. Proceeds will go to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Freedom Alliance and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
The run kicked off at 5 p.m. April 3 and continues 24 hours a day through mid- day April 8, when university president Roseann Runte will lead a formation of ROTC students during the final lap.
When the run is completed, hundreds of runners will have taken turns carrying the American flag relay-style on a one-mile course around the campus, each commemorating a service member lost during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Redman said plans originally called for the run to extend 650 miles, but that the number increases daily as U.S. casualties mount.
Some participants, particularly those in the ROTC programs, are running multiple miles, with some tallying up more than 20 miles during the event.
The parents and five siblings of U.S. Army Spc. Donald L. Wheeler, a 22-year- old native of Concord, Mich., arrived at the site to carry the flag around the course in honor of their son and brother. He was killed Oct. 13 in Iraq when his unit came under attack and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
"I understand it was pretty emotional," said Redman, student battalion commander of the school's Navy ROTC unit.
Redman said the primary goal of the event is raise awareness of the sacrifices military members families like Wheeler's make in the name of the freedom.
He said running around the clock, even in the dead of night, increases awareness of the ongoing nature of the mission, and the fact that service members fighting the war on terror can't take time out when they're tired, hungry or simply want to go home.
"This is a very fitting way for our campus community to honor these courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country," he said.