As more than 160 participants waited to start the Lake of the Ozarks Run for the Fallen on Saturday morning in Camdenton, they received a word of advice from the event's lead coordinator.
"When you go out and are walking, remember you are walking for those soldiers who have fallen. Remember them days, weeks and months after that that is you are doing this," said Trish Creach, Run For the Fallen coordinator and Camdenton Chamber executive director. "I also ask if you see a solider at the grocery store, the gas station or out in the community, thank them for their service. You don't know if they will be here tomorrow."
For the last five years, the Run for the Fallen has paid tribute to the 142 Missouri fallen soldiers who died as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2008, a group of college friends decided they wanted to honor those soldiers and decided to run cross country. They placed a flag and memorial for each soldier - some 4,400 at the time - who died during recent overseas military efforts at every mile marker.
Each year since the first run across America, runners from around the world have joined Run for the Fallen in remembering soldiers who have passed. More than 50,000 participants have run collectively more than 200,000 miles in remembrance of those fallen soldiers, Creach said.
"Those participating in the national Run for the Fallen came through the Camdenton area, and we here at the Lake decided we wanted to help contribute," she said. "So we try each year to get at least 142 participants to honor each of these 142 Missouri soldiers who have died serving our country."
The community participants, who showed their support for the fifth annual walk/run to honor America's heroes, will wear a runner's bid with the name of a fallen soldier. In addition, participants also had the opportunity to meet the Missouri Gold Star families, whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. A few of those families were in attendance and walked or ran in Saturday's event.
Participants in the Run for the Fallen, which coordinates with the national tribute memorial run, also can donate to Flags for Freedom Outreach. The Lake Area organization's goal is to place a monument in the hometown of every member of the military who lost his or her life serving in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and organizer Candy Adams told Run for Fallen participants they have placed 10 monuments so far.
Before taking to the American flag line walk/run trail around the Camdenton Little Theater and middle school, participants also watched a couple of videos commemorating the fallen Missouri soldiers, said the pledge of allegiance, listened to Shawn C and his sister Gemma Campinini sing the national anthem and honor the Missouri Gold Star families in attendance.
For more information about the Run for the Fallen, visit runforthefallen.org.