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Scott duo set out to lead Calif. Run for the Fallen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Elizabeth Clay
  • Headquarters Air Mobility Command Logistics Assessment Branch chief
Did you know that if you are currently serving in the military, your moms and dads are called Blue Star Parents? Many Blue Star families hang a service banner in their home window signifying the number of children that are serving in the military by the number of blue stars on the banner. However, if you die while serving in the military, that blue-colored star turns to the color of gold. And your family members are now designated as Gold Star Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, grandmas and grandpas. Gold Star Families have suffered the ultimate sacrifice and I believe we need to ensure that they are recognized.

You're not alone if you didn't know this information. I just learned about Gold Star Families a few years ago and since that day my husband and I have vowed to do everything we can to recognize these families including attending memorial events for the fallen and participating in and creating runs and ruck marches for the fallen at every base we get stationed. In fact, next weekend, we will set off to the west coast to honor California's fallen heroes. There are more than 5,000 service members who have died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the state of California has more than 700 of them. As founders of the California Run for the Fallen, my husband and I have dedicated the past two years ensuring that the memories of our fallen service members and their families are never forgotten.

The California Run for the Fallen is an organization of runners and support crew whose mission is clear and simple: To raise awareness for the lives of California service members who have fallen during or as a result of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and NEW DAWN; to rejuvenate their memories and keep their spirits alive; to support organizations that aid California Gold Star Families; and to aid in the healing process for those families whose lives have been affected by combatant or non-combatant situations.

On the last weekend of every September, a dedicated team of runners consisting of active duty and retired military from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and other local communities will set out from Laguna/Elk Grove to run 150 miles through California to finish September 30, 2012, at the Sacramento Valley Veteran's Affaits National Cemetery in Dixon. At each mile, the run team will place an American flag with a personal biographical card for each California service member who has fallen. Each mile ran and each flag saluted is to pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to their families left behind. Our intent is to create a 150-mile long memorial trail through California. The last 10K of this run will be open for registration to the public. The participants will join the Run Team as they stop at every mile to place American Flags and biographical cards in order to continue our 150-mile long trail of memories. The participants will have a flag with a biographical card of a fallen hero and will place it in a designated area within the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery at the completion of the run.

The event, had its beginnings in the summer of 2008, when a small group of civilians ran 4,000 miles across America. They called themselves Run for the Fallen, and their mission was to run one mile for every service member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "To Them That's Gone" is the documentary of this inspirational and historic event. On December 20, 2005, 1st Lt. Michael J. Cleary, of Dallas, Pa., was killed in action, in the town of Ad Duluiyah, Iraq. Michael was 24 years old; he was due to return home to his family and fiancée just ten days later. In response to this devastating loss, Mike's best friend and college roommate, Jon Bellona, founded Run for the Fallen. Jon put together a team comprised of Mikey's fiancée, sister and other friends. They did not run for or against the war, and refused any political affiliation. They ran only because they felt it was the right thing to do.

Since then, off-shoots of Jon Bellona's original Run for the Fallen have been started. The first, created in New Jersey by my former first sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Bubba Beason when he and I were stationed together as commander and first sergeant of the 305th Maintenance Squadron at then McGuire AFB, created the run to honor and bring awareness to all Gold Star Mothers and for the fallen who gave their all in the state of New Jersey. I had the privilege of participating in the 140-mile New Jersey Run for the Fallen for two years. To date, three states; New Jersey, Arkansas, and California all host state-wide Runs for the Fallen, all created from Sergeant Beason's vision.

When Sergeant Beason first asked me to be one of the 24 runners on the 2009 team, I had no idea back then the impact that this event would have on my soul today. As each of the two-man teams carrying a large U.S. and New Jersey flag ran our three, 6-mile legs along the 140-mile route from Cape May to Holmdel, N.J., through grueling heat, humidity, wind and sometimes huge rain down pours, we were met along the way by local residents, city workers, firefighters and family members of the fallen cheering and waving American flags in support of our cause. But it's not the cheering crowds that kept us running. It's the look of the grieving mother and the families of the fallen for whom we run that motivated us to never quit. My experience running for the fallen in New Jersey is what gave me the desire to create a similar run at my next duty location, which happened to be Travis AFB.

It makes me proud to say that my husband, Chris, has led the charge as director of the 2012 event in California. Planning for the California Run for the Fallen has been in the works for well over a year.

"I can't wait for the weekend to get here", Chris said. "I feel great knowing that for at least three days, our team of runners will able to spread awareness to the state of California about Gold Star Families and to bring honor to their sons and daughters. It is such an honor and privilege to be in the presence of these families. I will organize and participate in the Runs for the Fallen as often as I am able. And you can be sure that Liz and I will do everything we can to make sure that there will be an Illinois Run for the Fallen to take place while we're stationed here at Scott."

Since June 23, 1936, a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day, a holiday that has been observed each year by a presidential proclamation. It originated during World War II, when families displayed small flags with a gold star in a window after the death of a loved one in the military service. In keeping with the tradition, the weekend of Sept. 28-30, 2012, was purposefully chosen for the California Run for the Fallen. To find out more information about the Run, please go to or follow us on Facebook at