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Run for the Fallen has a Domino Effect on Ottumwa Community

By Aaryn Frazier, June 13, 2018

OTTUMWA — A journey of over 6,000 miles continued June 12th when a caravan of runners and vehicles in the Run for the Fallen made it to their stopping point at the Rocket Fuel Station in Ottumwa.

Run for the Fallen; a tribute to those lost during military service. The relay began at Fort Irwin in California and will end at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Ottumwa’s stop was just past the halfway point in the group’s trek.

Before there could be any rest, however, the runners went through their hero-marker ceremony. The information section for the website says, “Each ceremonial stop will be less than 1 minute as runners then run toward next marker. Also please join us at each end of day ceremony so we can be sure to call your loved one’s name and honor you as well.”

Markers are set a mile apart, and each marker is a day of death. For each marker, the ones who passed on that designated day have their names, military branch and rank called out to honor them and their families. These “death days” and markers show military deaths mainly from the War on Terror (WOT) beginning October 12, 2000 and will end with the very last death up to the ending day at Arlington National Cemetery.

Once the group was done running for the day they made their way to Birchwood Drive for a dinner and nightly ceremonies at the Schiller’s house.

“(We are here) To celebrate what our fallen soldiers have done for us and our community,” said Bill.

“Yes. I would say,” said Liz. “We had a discussion and decided, as Gold Star parents here in Ottumwa, that we would be honored to host this dinner and the ceremony they have every night at the end of a day’s run.”

Gold Star designation is given to the surviving family members of the fallen soldier. The Schillers along with other Gold Star families and community members were sat in the Schiller’s backyard for the flag presentation by the color guard, receiving embroidered Honor and Remember flag and the recitation of the day’s names. All families receiving a gifted flag were Ottumwans the Greenes, the Wolffs, the Brinsers, and the Schillers.

Dinner and ceremonies saw tears of sadness, thankfulness and relief from families, runners and even the Mayor. Tom Lazio designated June 12 as Run for the Fallen Day for the city of Ottumwa.

“Those sacrifices of the fallen represent the ultimate service to our nation,” Lazio said. “American citizens owe a debt of gratitude and remembrance to those fallen and their Gold Star families.”

After the somber part of the night, the core group were also selling merchandise to support the run and the families. There are various items from t-shirts to lapel pins. Then it was time for everyone to settle in for the night and prepare for the next day’s run.

The crew’s day began early on Wednesday, June 13, with breakfast at Jimmy Jones Shelter on Memorial Drive. Breakfast was brought by Jody Ellis-Ranisate, Iowa Coordinator, and Mike Doud, another local volunteer.

Right before everyone was set to leave for their starting point, a surprise came in the form of extra runners for the the day’s 46-mile run. Ottumwa and Davis County Track and Field kids and coaches came to run for the day.

Having some extra people gave the core group a much needed break. Once logistics were discussed, the group gathered in a large circle for a prayer before loading up into the RVs.

They met back up at Rocket Fuel to begin where they left off the day before. The runners and the caravan of vehicles had gained members and an audience. At 7:30 a.m. prominent community member, principal and pastor, Jeff Hendred, set the runners on their first mile with some wise words.

“Remember who you’re running for,” said Hendred. “The other thing I think about is — It is not an uncommon thing to gather the city around the people who are going to carry a message to another area.”

With a final prayer, the whole group set off on their first mile. The miles would be split into teams after the first one was finished. Each team is made up of members who run at the same pace with enough members to carry the flags on their journey to Mount Pleasant.

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