T-shirts were available at Leesburg’s 9/11 Heroes Run on Saturday (Staff Photo: Jim West)
LEESBURG — It was a perfect day for running Saturday, and in Leesburg more than 150 stalwart individuals put their feet to the pavement.
It was the 2nd annual 9/11 Heroes Run, dedicated to the fallen service men and women, and specifically those who were”home-grown.” Many of the runners wore signs with the name of their favorite hero, and were cheered hardily by crowd. Many waved American flags.
“We have a lot more runners than we did last year,” said Lee County Commissioner, Greg Frich. “We only had 120 last year, but 150 signed up yesterday, and they’re signing up as we speak. There have been 10 service men from Lee County die in conflicts since World War II and we want to make sure we remember the participles they stood for.
“It’s those principles that make this country strong. if we continue to practice those principles, fewer men will have to die for them.”
Frich is senior program manager for the Raytheon Corporation, a major sponsor of the Heroes Run.
Speakers at the event included Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn; Lee County Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge; Col. Don Davis, commander of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany; state Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, and Lt. Gen. Mark Faulkner, deputy commandant, Installations and Logistics, who was down from the Pentagon to run in Saturday’s race.
“You out there know that freedom is not free,” Faulkner said. “You know there’s a big price to pay to be a part of this. There are 6,500 marines in the southern part of Afghanistan and they’re working with their Afghan security partners.
“We’re basically training them to provide the same kind of freedoms that your soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines provide for us. Unfortunately, they don’t all come back.”
Faulkner outlined the circumstance of the death of Travis Manion, the young Marine for which one of the run’s sponsors was named — The Travis Manion Foundation.
“On April 29, 2007, while leading his marines, Manion was shot at killed in Iraq,” Faulkner said, “But not before saving two of his Marines. He paid the ultimate sacrifice and was awarded the nations third-highest medal for valor — the Silver Star.
“You runners out there, right about that one mile, or two and a half, when you’re starting to feel sorry for yourself, starting to feel weak and you want to call your mom, think of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and suck it up and finish strong, because that’s what we do.”
Around 3 p.m., runners fired off down Main Street for the one-mile Fun Run. As they were straggling back in, fresh participants were lining up for the main event — the full 5K run.
“It’s touching. It’s just too much, you know,” said Gene Sutton, father of Marine Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton, who was killed in May 2012 in Afghanistan. “It makes me feel good that everybody’s supporting Leesburg. Maybe it took Steven’s passing for Leesburg to come together with a group like this. This is a great deal, really.”