Veterans Day is coming up and that means it is time, once again, for the Freedom Run. Many people talk about remembering the fallen but how many actually do anything about it? The brainchild of an FDNY Captain while serving in Afghanistan, the Freedom Run started out as a way to remember the events of 9/11 and then became a way to remember the fallen. Instead of making a post on social media, form a team, lace up the shoes and do something about it.
So there I was, on Bagram Air Field, no shit. Every day, At 1200 ZULU we would meet in the ISAF LNO office for a coffee break. This was started by a couple of British officers, Ady and Feazier, and it caught on. It was an interesting mix of all services, military and civilian, officers and enlisted, Americans and internationals. “Dice” couldn’t look more like a firefighter or a fighter jock if he tried. At the time he was an FDNY Captain deployed as a Navy Commander. One day he was talking about how the diversity in this group of friends and how we were all brought together by the events of Sept. 11. Having witnessed the actions first hand and lost friends, he wanted to commemorate that day. His idea was for us to symbolically return to Ground Zero. One of the Air Force guys used Falcon View to measure the distance from where we were to Ground Zero. It was just over 6,800 miles.
As we trickled back to the states, some of us tried to keep it going. When I started attending college the run changed when I got the veterans club involved. Instead of running to New York, we decided to cover one mile for every casualty of the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
So here is how it works. Form a team. Tell your unit, friends, school club or coworkers and start your own team. If you can’t get many people, contribute to the DTC numbers. The rules are simple, log the miles by covering the distance under our own power. Running, walking, bike riding anything that you can do that measures distance. I know a guy that adds his miles kayaking. For any other physical activity count one mile for every 15 minutes of exercise. That includes whatever a person does for exercise to include cardio, weight lifting and even yoga. Meditation does not count and only full miles/time with no rounding up.The point it to remember our fallen brothers and sisters. Doing a little bit of PT is nothing compared to what they have lost. I will admit that doing the Freedom Run is a good motivator to hit the gym. During the first Freedom Run, since I was one of the main proponents of the group, I felt a fair amount of pressure to log miles. Every day, at lunch, I would ride around the BAF perimeter and then hit the gym later. I took Sunday off and still caught crap for having one day with no miles.
We recognized people that logged substantial miles. About 20 people logged over 100 miles. If you logged enough miles you were in a “club” and got a patch. Patches started at 205 miles. We had four members of the 250 Mile club, I was a member of the 500 Mile Club and we had two members of the 750 Mile Club. They were beasts and highly competitive. Both were field grade officers, one male, one female and were PT monsters trying to make the rest of us look bad. They succeeded.
While some friendly competition is good, it is important not to detract from the goal of the Freedom Run. At last count, there were 6,758 American GWOT casualties. Dice’s group in New York logs a mile for every fallen service member since 9/11 including internationals that deployed in support of OIF and OEF, civilian contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and every first responder that died on 9/11. That adds a couple thousand miles to his total. Your group should do whatever feels most comfortable.
I really hope you will join in on the Freedom Run. If you do, you should do something in tribute to the original group. Create a certificate and get someone with rank to present it. After logging all the miles in Afghanistan, one of the Air Force guys (Fista I think) convinced an Air Force General to present the certificates in front of the flagpole. It was awesome. He even commented that he wish he had known it was going on because he would have joined in. So you can win the Freedom Run by being the first group to complete it, getting the highest ranking person to join in or by logging the most miles.
So get out there and form your team. Time to do more than post a message over social media. This is a way to really remember the fallen. Get going Veterans Day and try to finish quickly because we start all over again on Memorial Day. I am going to start training hard. I would like to be a member of the 1,000 mile club.