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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the Oct. 6, 2021 issue of The Journal
   Who do we run for?
   For those who can't.
   That was one of the mantras/chants shouted by runners in the three-day Run for the Fallen event that passed thru our area this past weekend.
   I joined the group on the final day, running some of the relay legs and talking to the participants in between their shifts carrying flags and the names of heroes, while pounding the pavement on the mean hills of Highway 26 between Ellaville and Buena Vista.
   Each mile, as we stopped to read aloud names of military members who have died in service to our country, my appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many grew. There was just something about hearing name after name spoken aloud all morning long, along with the dignified and somber ceremonies held by the volunteers, that made it all feel more "real" to me.
   Of course, I already knew that many people have died in service to the USA and that they all had families and loved ones. But playing a part in ceremonies to officially honor so many of them was sobering.
   I thought of all of the families whose worlds have been forever changed and whose hurt and longing will never fully go away.
   It made me feel a little guilty. The past year has been a tough one for my family – death, sickness, surgeries, hospitals. When one of those pesty South Georgia deer jumped out of nowhere recently and busted up one of our vehicles, I thought, "Great, when it rains it pours," and wondered how much more my nerves could take.
   How petty. How ungrateful.
   I bet all the Gold Star Families out there wish they could get a call from their loved one telling them they hit a deer, but they're okay. They'd settle for any call about anything.
   But the call will never come. Ever.
   Their loved one made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the highest price – for the Land of the Free. Some may have wondered why their country sent them into harm's way and wondered if their mission was wise. If so, it mattered not. They fulfilled their duty all the same.
   We owe a debt to the families of these fallen heroes. It's a debt that has no price tag and it's certainly one we can never pay.
   But we can remember them. We can honor them.
   Prior to volunteering to run in the event, I spoke to Gold Star Mom and Georgia Honor & Remember Director Candice King. When explaining the event to me, she said the runners stop roughly every mile at specific markers to read the names of fallen service members. She said it is very special when family members are there, but noted that at many of the stops, the only ones there would be the volunteers.
   I wondered if it really mattered that the names would be read if nobody who knew them was present. She said, "Saying their names keeps them alive."
   It didn't make sense to me then. Now it does. Even though it's only been a few days, I couldn't begin to come close to remembering the names today, but I was moved each and every time I heard one of the names spoken.
   Who do we run for?
   For those who can't.
   You may not be a runner, but the next time you do anything you enjoy, take a moment to reflect on the fact that our fallen heroes gave that opportunity up – for you.

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For more about Run for the Fallen click here.