Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
Family and friends of fallen service members and supporting community members gathered at the Resiliency Center Sept. 18 for the 11th annual Run/Walk for the Fallen, hosted by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation through Army Community Service and Survivor Outreach Services. This year’s event honored 504 fallen service members from the area, and two Gold Star families were presented flowers by Garrison Commander Col. John Misenheimer Jr. during the opening ceremony.
Volunteers from Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, the 15th Military Police Brigade, Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC and other area organizations and businesses supported the event by helping with set-up and race logistics and providing refreshments.
Some of the participants attended the event to pay respect to fallen service members and to offer support to surviving families, but for other participants, the event was a time for personal remembrance.
A staff group of students from the Command and General Staff College participated with their families to honor the fallen. Local fitness group Stroller Strong Moms participated to honor fallen friends. Run participants wore running bibs with the names of the fallen service members they wanted to honor.
Cindy Smith and her husband Eric lost their son Staff Sgt. Trey Smith while he was serving in Afghanistan last year. They visit their son’s gravesite weekly at the Leavenworth National Cemetery.
“We remember him every day, but with things like this, it’s like you just imagine he’s
walking with you,” she said. “This is really my first time in embracing an activity, but as you walked the path, there are families out there ringing cowbells or waving flags or just saying ‘keep going!’ There’s so much motivation just from the military community.”
Smith said that groups such as SOS and Gold Star Mothers provide an empathetic space for those who have experienced loss.
“The activities really are a healing tool. It’s because we all have similar feelings, and I think it’s easier to let your guard down and let people embrace you because they get it. They understand,” Smith said. “I know that this would make (my son) proud, just the fact that we’re out here walking in his memory, not just for him but for everyone’s loved one that was lost.”
Army Community Service has support, transition resources, services and programs for all ages to help Army families across a life-time of events.
“We made a promise to our survivors that they won’t be forgotten and that services will be available as long as they need it and as long as they want us to be available,” said Janice Downey, ACS chief.