Photo Caption: Lead runners set the pace at the 214th Fires Brigade Fallen Soldier Memorial 5K and one-mile fun run Nov. 27, 2013, at Fort Sill. More than 900 participants turned out to honor fallen heroes.
December 5, 2013
By Capt. Charlie Dietz and 1st Lt. Clinton Custer, 214th Fires Brigade
FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 5, 2013) -- The 214th Fires Brigade hosted its third annual Fallen Soldier Memorial 5K and one-mile fun run Nov. 27 on Fort Sill, and a "shadow run" with its deployed battalion -- 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery "Steel Warriors," which is in the United Arab Emirates.
The run is a tradition set up by the brigade to remember Soldiers killed in combat. It also raises money for services that help Gold Star families, such as Survivor Outreach Services.
Gold Star family members are immediate family to a deceased service member. The run hosted three Gold Star spouses and one mother. The events raised more than $15,000 through race fees and donations.
"Today is an annual tradition that we hold dear to our hearts to remind everyone that our fallen Soldiers and Gold Star families sacrifices will not be forgotten," said Col. Andrew Preston, 214th FiB commander, addressing the crowd before the start.
This was the third time Marie Berberea, a Gold Star spouse, ran the race.
"This has become my favorite run to do every year. Just being able to run for Stephen's memory is wonderful, and I just think it's great to see so many others who wanted to run for the fallen despite below freezing temperatures," she said.
The run started off with a bang as the cannon fired with the help of Gold Star family member Amanda Alexander pulling the lanyard, with more than 900 runners rushing through the start line.
"I think it went wonderfully, and I loved the family walk this year. I also very much enjoyed Colonel Preston's opening remarks," said Alexander.
"They were very poignant and touching. Overall, I really enjoyed the event, and I truly appreciate the brigade supporting and participating in such an important event that is so dear to my family," she said.
At Camp Redleg, UAE, the "Steel Warriors" kicked off their shadow run a few days later.
The battalion decided to hold its own run as a show of support to fallen Soldiers and their families. There were more than 200 from the "Steel Warriors" and their coalition partners. This is the first time that the Fallen Soldier Run was conducted internationally.
"This run is important to me because the cause that it supports. It is a great way to promote awareness, and it shows our Soldiers and coalition partners one of the many ways we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They are truly not forgotten," said 1st Lt. Christopher Robbins, one of the runners in UAE.
To respect the host nation guidelines on activities during the day, the battalion conducted the run on the Saturday following the run at Fort Sill.
For those in UAE it was a good way to exercise and work off some of the calories they had consumed celebrating Thanksgiving two days before. Outside the gate, two rocket launcher displays were set up on each side of the starting line. A big tent with a sound system was set up for runners to enjoy before the race and to pump themselves up for the competition, very similar to the Fort Sill set up that also had displays of their weapons systems.
One of the best parts about the shadow run was the atmosphere of not only U.S. service members, but also coalition partners who came out to support their comrades, with an Australian chaplain providing the opening prayer.
"It was great getting to see our coalition partners to come out for this event and was a really good opportunity to bond with them and share some of our unit traditions with them," said 1st Lt. Caroline Bell.
For many runners, the memorial run held a very personal meaning as there was a line on the race bib to write someone's name in following the text "Running in memory of ... ."
"It's good to honor our fallen brothers in arms, especially Lieutenant Tobias Alexander and Captain Jesse Ozbat," said Sgt. Matthew Whigham, 1-14th FA.
Ozbat and Alexander were two Soldiers who were killed May 20, 2011, in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, during a 214th FiB deployment. Alexander's spouse, Amanda, is still active within the brigade and is the leader of a program that helps families during times of grief.
The fastest men and women in each of four age categories were recognized and awarded prizes donated from sponsors. Race photos can be found on the 214th FiB Facebook page at facebook.com/214thFiB.