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Run to honor military personnel

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Saturday, April 20, 2019

People wanting to remember heroes who served in uniform are going to have the chance within a month.

North Carolina’s Run for the Fallen is set for 10 a.m. on May 18 on the track at Northern Nash High School northwest of Rocky Mount. The event is going to be held rain or shine.

The idea is for people to run a mile to honor at least 500 people who either were from the Tar Heel State when they joined the military or who served at a military post in the state.

“And it's very easy to take a few minutes out of our day, a few minutes out of our weekend to spend some time and honor them — and let the families know that we won't forget," said Julia Cockrell, 42, of Rocky Mount, who is a volunteer with the event. “We'll honor their sacrifice and we'll honor their families."

Runners are each provided with a small U.S. flag, along with a light, laminated card with a name, photograph and biography of each fallen service member he or she is going to run for. The runners hold the flags while making four laps totaling a mile.

“It just gives you a sense of just respect for what they've done, what the families have been through — and just the pride in North Carolina because of all the sacrifices that they made to serve our country," Cockrell said.

She also said runners, after completing the mile, can run in honor of another fallen service member.

And Cockrell said bicyclists and walkers, youngsters and mothers with toddlers in strollers are welcome to participate in the event.

The event honors military personnel who were serving the country at the time of their death but not exclusively those killed in action. The cause of death can be as a result of an accident, in connection with post-traumatic stress disorder or self-inflicted.

Cockrell is active in the North Carolina chapter of Honor and Remember.

Honor and Remember is a nationwide organization established by George Lutz, who is a Chesapeake, Va., resident whose son Tony was killed in 2005 in Iraq.

George Lutz believed there should be a national symbol dedicated to fallen military personnel and as a result, he created the Honor and Remember flag.

The flag is embroidered with the name of the fallen service member and is presented to the service member’s family as a means of appreciation for what he or she did for the country.

The Run for the Fallen can be traced to Flag Day in June 2008, when a team ran from Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert in California to Arlington National Cemetery.

A mile was dedicated to each of the airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers killed since the start of the War on Terror in the aftermath of 9/11.

Eventually, the founders of Honor and Remember and Run for the Fallen met and by 2014, they merged their efforts.

Cockrell said the May 18 event is going to be the third one for North Carolina's Honor and Remember chapter at Northern Nash High.

She said the event did not occur at the school in 2018 because of a Run for the Fallen from Southern California to Arlington in honor of the 10th anniversary of the first nationwide run.

Cockrell herself has a personal interest in being involved in Honor and Remember.

Years ago, she once babysat Ryan Russell, who would grow up to join the military and serve as a medic. Russell was killed in 2007 in Iraq.

"Unlike people of my generation that really didn't experience wartime tragedy like this, when he was lost, you feel like you need to jump in and do something and help," Cockrell said.

Russell's mother, Kathy Moore, decided she wanted to start an Honor and Remember chapter in North Carolina. Moore is the chapter's current president.

"I just thought that it would be important for families that lose someone to understand and know that they're not forgotten," Cockrell said.

Cockrell spoke of what she believes families go through when they lose loved ones who served in uniform.

"After the first few weeks, they're probably bombarded with phone calls and food and love and compassion," she said. "And then as the days go by, they continue to live with the loss and can very easily think that others have forgotten them."

People interested in participating in the May 18 event can contact Cockrell at julia4jesus@gmail.com

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