• Community comes out to remember fallen

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    The seventh annual Run/Walk for the Fallen Sept. 16 drew about 1,200 people of all ages and abilities to participate in the three-mile non-competitive race to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in service to the nation.
    Glenn Hewitt, director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the course is always designed to be stroller- and pet-friendly to maximize community participation and a large number of people were expected to participate this year.
    “We have the Patriot Guard Riders, Veterans of Foreign Wars Riders, American Legion Riders and Combat Vet Riders supporting the event again this year,” Hewitt said. “This is a free event for all ages, and it is an excellent way to show our appreciation to our fallen veterans and their families. Displaying unit guidons, small banners, pictures, and flags during the run/walk are all encouraged.”
    Hewitt said family members of Kansas native and Medal of Honor recipient Spc. Danny Petersen would participate in the opening ceremony. Petersen was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest decoration for his actions with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1970.
    Janice Downey, chief of Army Community Service, said the ACS staff and groups of volunteers were instrumental in producing the event. They managed the registration process and manned the race comfort stations throughout the course.
    “In addition to ACS staff members, we have some community volunteers helping today, including Command and General Staff College students, members of BOSS and soldiers,” Downey said.
    “It’s a family-friendly event intended to honor all those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Paul Martocci, chief of the Nonappropriated Fund Management Support Division, FMWR.
    Volunteers Brandie Wempe, from Army University, and Dana Lapreze, whose husband recently retired from active duty, were assisting at the bib table. They said some participants wear multiple bibs to honor numerous individuals.
    “The bib station is here to serve anyone who is running or walking in honor of someone,” Wempe said. “They fill out the designated place on the bib with the name or names of whom they are honoring.”
    “It’s also a really neat event to watch, and the opening ceremonies are super, super special too,” said Lapreze, who has participated as a volunteer for the past three years.
    Mark Taylor, a Marine Corps veteran with Team Fidelis, brought his son Alexander and service dog Hutch to participate in the event.
    “I lost a couple of friends to veteran suicide and joined Team Fidelis to help raise awareness of this issue,” Taylor said. “That’s what motivates me to be here today.”
    Fort Leavenworth Exchange Operations Manager Marina Lemanua said she was there with a friend in support of all military community members and to traverse the three-mile course.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I’ve been with the Exchange for 31 years serving soldiers and I love it,” Lemanua said. “I just want to be here and participate in supporting our fallen soldiers and their loved ones.”
    Walter Williams, a volunteer from the Omicron Iota Iota Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, said participating with the event was another way the organization gives back to the community. He said many of the fraternity members help as volunteers, then participate in the run as well.
    “We have one of our fallen brothers listed among those on the T-shirt,” Williams said. “We’ve been supporting this event since 2012 and believe firmly in it.”
    “I’m here to support the community in our efforts to recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for us,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Zach Keough, Mission Command Training Program.
    Keough’s sister Jessie said she has been running seriously for seven years and was visiting from Mexico, Mo.
    “I’m always down for the run,” Jessie said. “It’s a great cause on top of it.”
    Gold Star mother Sun Rodgers, who works in the finance office of FMWR, was on-site at 5 a.m. to begin registering participants at 6:30 a.m. She said many elements come together each year to produce the Run/Walk for the Fallen.
    “The event came together today because of the dedication and work of our staff and wonderful volunteers,” Rodgers said. “We make it successful each year by working together.”
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