On December 10, troops participated in the Iraq version of the Honolulu Marathon. Many were from the 25th Infantry Division which is deployed from Hawaii.
They ran the 26.2 miles while participating in a fundraiser for TAPS-Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Many were running on behalf of one of the many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.
For many of the runners, the chance to honor a faller service member was the most meaningful part of participating in the marathon.
"Just to honor someone's memory means a lot," said 1st Lt Clayton O. Carpenter of 3-25 Aviation, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. He ran in memory of Capt. Blake Russell, who was killed in Baghdad earlier this year.
"I think it is a great thing to do to remember the survivors. You know, people give their lives every day and I think it's a great thing to do just to show that you care," said 1st Lt Tracy L. Gordon, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion Headquarters Company, 82nd Airborne Division. Gordon ran in memory of Staff Sgt Todd E Nunes, who was killed in Kirkuk, Iraq in 2004.
"What an honor to our family," Norma Melo wrote in a letter to Staff Sgt Jaime Pieniazek, who ran for her husband, Staff Sgt Julian S Melo, who was killed in Mosul in 2004. "TAPS has helped our family in so many way that I cannot begin to tell you the felling of family that is given to survivors."
TAPS assists the survivors with peer support, counseling, education, and has camps for the children to assist them.
Where else would you see troops in a combat zone taking time and energy to work towards a charitable goal? This is a great country, with a great military!!!
A list of the runners and the fallen comrades they represented is here.
For more information about TAPS, please visit their web site.