FORT HOOD — Teen Miss Five Hills Carleigh Ross reached for each combat boot, picking them up gently from the military trucks as she and other members of the Five Hills royalty helped memorialize more than 7,000 service members who have died since 9/11.

The Copperas Cove titleholders joined hundreds of others who stepped out on the III Corps parade field at Fort Hood shortly after sunrise Saturday to participate in the Fort Hood Remembrance 5K Run/Walk.

But after crossing the finish line, the volunteers who remained to help line up the boots being moved from the walk route to the field in front of the military headquarters was fewer than 25.

“Being the daughter of a soldier really put in perspective that each of those boots represented a soldier’s life, a soldier with a family and friends and an individual personality,” Ross said. “Walking along the route, I read the soldiers’ cards and studied their faces, wondering what they were like and if their families were there watching too. I pictured each soldier standing in his boots, which brought me to tears as the boots were lined shoulder to shoulder on each side of the route throughout the enormous length of the 5K. It made honoring each of the soldiers that the boots represented personal.

“Realizing the weight of these lives lost for our country also brought the realization of the innumerable lives fighting still today, just like my dad.”

The boot memorial is open to the public and will remain on display through July 10.

The Five Hills royalty also represented the city in the Belton Fourth of July Parade. The royalty were joined on the city float by service members of every branch of the military—Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

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