When the last name is called solemnly Aug. 5 at Arlington Cemetery, members of the Run for the Fallen team will have read nearly 20,000 names in tribute to every military service member who died serving during the War on Terror.
Blazing a predetermined Tribute Trail across the nation, the Run for the Fallen began April 7 at Fort Irwin, Calif., and will traverse 6,000 miles through 19 states when it ends in Arlington.
We’re doing this to send a message that freedom comes at a cost. Not just the cost of a life, but the cost to the families that they represent. The families grieve the rest of their lives and we want to make sure they’re not forgotten.George Lutz., founder of “Honor and Remember"
The core team of marathon runners and support team made a stop in Statesboro Monday and held an end of the day ceremony at American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 on Rucker Lane. American Legion Post 90, Statesboro’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10825 and Sylvania’s VFW Post 7116 hosted the team for a dinner.
George Lutz from Chesapeake, Va., is the founder of “Honor and Remember,” the organization behind the Run for the Fallen event. Lutz lost his son, Sgt. Thomas Edward Lutz Jr. in 2005 when he was killed in Iraq.
“We’re doing this to send a message that freedom comes at a cost,” Lutz said. “Not just the cost of a life, but the cost to the families that they represent. The families grieve the rest of their lives and we want to make sure they’re not forgotten.”
Working with the Department of Defense and other groups, Lutz compiled a comprehensive list of fallen veterans and service members, beginning with the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. When that number tallied to almost 20,000, he looked for a commonality to plan a Tribute Trail. Choosing the date of death, Lutz established 6,000 dates and marked a trail from California to Arlington.
When runners arrive at a predetermined Hero Marker, the team halts, salutes, stands at attention, and reads the names of those who lost their lives on that date. Often, Gold Star family members – the family of the fallen – are waiting at the marker to hear the name read.
“We say that a person can die two deaths,” Lutz said. “A physical death and a death of being forgotten. When the last person says their name. These men and women are not just statistics. And we don’t want to forget them or their families.”
Patty and Al Lucas traveled all the way from California to hear their son’s name read in Georgia. Sgt. Patrick Lucas lost his life on Jan. 17, 2015 in Afghanistan. With respect to the date of his death, Lucas’ Hero Marker is in the state of Georgia, as the Tribute Trail markers for Georgia are mostly for the years of 2014 and 2015 fallen.
With obvious emotion, Patty Lucas shared that her son was 25 when he died.
“He’d only served for four years, but in that time, he’d earned a Bronze Star, two Army Accommodation Medals and more that I can’t even remember.”
Portal’s Brock Chavers
Local Gold Star family member Loice Chavers was in attendance at Monday’s end of day service. Her son Brock Chavers, who was a Portal High School graduate, was killed in Afghanistan by an IED that took the lives of those in his Humvee military vehicle on July 6, 2009.
“All of my sons joined the military,” Chavers said.
Her son Maj. Bryan Chavers works at the Pentagon; son Staff Sgt. Victor Chavers is with the Georgia National Guard in Macon.
Her daughters, Veronica and Venus, live in Gainesville, Ga., and Linden, N.J., respectively.
When Brock lost his life on a Monday, her younger son, Brandon, was due to graduate from basic training the next day at Ft. Benning.
“He got out after his brother died, to help take care of me,” Loice Chavers said.
Though much of that time is a blur for her, she remembers that she was in disbelief when she was told of her son’s passing.
“But I just talked to him yesterday,” she kept telling the men who came to her house to give the dreaded news.
“I couldn’t breathe. They tried to give me a drink of water – but I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the floor. The Lord had to tell me to breathe.”
Brock’s wife, Minnie, continues to serve with the Georgia National Guard.
Loice Chavers wasn’t aware of her son’s Hero Marker location and during Monday’s dinner Lutz pulled up the YouTube live feed video from June 11, in a town outside of Winterset, Iowa, where runners stood solemnly on the side of the road.
She listened intently with emotion and couldn’t hide her tears when she heard her son’s name.
“Wow,” was all she could say, as she gave a thumbs-up.
Chavers recognized more than just her son’s name read at the marker, as she also listened to Brock’s comrades’ names read, and she knew they were the last ones to be with her son that day in the military vehicle.
“I lean on God, that’s all I can do,” she said. “I stay busy.”
Gold Star families and friends of the fallen lean on their faith, on other family members, on friends, and on total strangers like the members of the Run for the Fallen team to get them through grief that never goes away.
To view footage from the Run for the Fallen event that will culminate in Arlington Aug. 5, go to RunfortheFallen.org and click on “live feed.”