by Terri Winder
If you travel between San Juan County’s southern and eastern border, you will see a small American flag attached to each milepost.
If you look closely, you will see a card attached below the flag.
If you stop to read what is written on the card, you will find the name of one of over 4,100 American service members killed while serving their country during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Known as both scenic and lonely, Highway 191 has now been blessed by the passing of the Run for the Fallen team.
They are the ones who posted the flags and service members names. They are the ones who have honored the service members by dedicating one mile to each fallen warrior.
They are the ones who have sanctified our guardian’s sacrifices, and by so doing, have left a trail of pride and honor in their wake.
However, the runners found something in San Juan County they had not yet encountered in the first thousand miles of their four thousand mile run: an enthusiastic welcoming committee. “This is the nicest welcome we have ever had,” exclaimed Shauna, one of the runners. “What we saw today was incredible!”
What they saw was the end result of an effort that began mostly with two women: Holly Walker and Becky Hughes. As the Family Readiness Group Leader at the National Guard Armory, Holly received an email about the Run for the Fallen group and she immediately began organizing associated activities.
Becky felt an immediate pull toward the event and, characteristically, she threw herself into it.
As the team made their way toward Blanding, early Tuesday morning, July 1, there was a support station set up on Highway 191, by the Armory.
From there into town, signs were posted acknowledging and welcoming the team. A group of local runners of all ages waited at Centennial Park. Pinned to their shirts were placards that proclaimed, “I run for… ”
Many local runners chose to run for the two hometown service men who lost their lives in Iraq: Lance Corporal Quinn Keith and Sergeant First Class Nathan Winder.
As the group moved through town, there were clusters of people lining Main Street – many dressed in patriotic colors and holding flags – cheering them on. The local runners stayed with the team until they reached the cemetery.
Some of the National Guardsmen continued with the team on an extra lap through the cemetery before everyone gathered at the entrance to applaud each other’s efforts.
It was an incredible feeling that encompassed the group as they individually and collectively demonstrated love for country, gratitude for freedom, and reverence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve these blessings. Tears were shed and hugs were shared, and for a few moments no words seemed adequate or even appropriate.
After a brief rest, the 11-member Run for the Fallen team moved on. So did their San Juan County support group.
The team found another aide station at Bull Hollow, more posted signs of support, and patriotic citizens along Monticello’s Main Street.
This “Memorial Trail” in San Juan County includes the name of LCpl Quinn Keith, at milepost 58, but that is purely coincidental. The first mile run was for one of the first service members killed at the beginning of the war and the names proceed from there.
SFC Nathan Winder’s “mile” will be in Virginia. The cards were made by school children from across the nation.
Participating with Run for the Fallen was an emotional occasion for all those involved, as well it should have been. For those who missed out, or for those who want to stay involved, the Run for the Fallen team still have three thousand miles to go, and they are very grateful for support.
During the time they spent in San Juan County, they were given lodging at Recapture Motel in Bluff and at The Monticello Inn, and provided dinner at The Lamplight.
Their non-profit organization is funded by donations. You can find more information at runforthefallen.org.