FORT HOOD — On a sunny, breezy Saturday morning, Shawna Westbrook and Shayre Strickland stood together on Cameron Field waiting to run for their brother.
The sisters traveled from Glen Rose to Fort Hood on Saturday to participate in the first Fallen, Never Forgotten Memorial Run held near Division West headquarters. Their younger brother, Cpl. Rhett Butler, was killed in Iraq in July 2007.
Westbrook said they planned to have a good time but intended to keep their brother foremost in their minds.
“Neither one of us are big-time runners but we’re going to get through it,” she said. “We’re here for a reason. It’s going to be fun but we’re also going to honor our brother.”
Later, the winner of the 5k race, Daniel Dramiga, said he chose to run in honor of many fallen soldiers. The run also featured a 10k course.
“It wasn’t anybody in particular, it was everybody,” he said. “I’m in the Army, too, and I feel their pain when we lose somebody downrange.”
Before and after the races, people of all ages roamed the field, many clad in colorful Fallen, Never Forgotten T-shirts or other shirts featuring special running bibs inscribed with the name or names of those they chose to run for.
Some came to run hard and earn a first, second or third place in their age category while others had a leisurely jog while pushing a stroller or walking a dog. Nine running clubs and six units were represented in the 522 people registered for the competitive races.
Spread over the 10k route were five memorial sites to encourage quiet reflection.
The event was a collaborative effort between the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and other Fort Hood entities. Leslie Love, a senior spouse adviser with Fort Hood’s Survivor Outreach Services, was the brainchild and key organizer behind the memorial run, which featured competitive 10k and 5k races, plus recreational 1-mile and 3k runs or walks.
Love said the event grew out of her husband’s squadron command at Fort Hood when he lost 10 soldiers in the Iraq War. Years later, the Loves returned to Fort Hood and Leslie Love decided to approach MWR and the garrison with the idea to start a memorial race similar to ones she saw at other posts.
“This is a way to show the family members we have not forgotten their soldiers, and this is a way to show the soldiers that their sacrifice still means everything to us,” Love said.
She said the plan is for the Fallen, Never Forgotten Memorial Run to return year after year. “I would like it to go to the 25th annual, to the 40th annual,” Love said. “There’s no stopping how much bigger this event can grow each year.”
For 5k and 10k race results, go to www.hoodmwr.com.