Running to Remember

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

Five-thousand, two-hundred and eighty feet. Not much to ask, Linda Gibson says, considering what they gave: their lives.

"It's just a way to honor them," says the Eugene woman and mother of deceased Army Sgt. Brennan Gibson, of the more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers who have died fighting in Iraq. "It's all about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom."

And it's about doing so via running. Or walking. Or a combination of both Sunday at the Churchill High School track.

"I'm hoping that people will come out and not only remember those who died, but say a prayer for the families," says Gibson, who lost her youngest child on Dec. 10, 2006, when the Humvee he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Baghdad. Sgt. Gibson was one of three soldiers killed in the blast.

To honor not only her son, a 1997 graduate of Thurston High School, but all military members who have died in Iraq, Linda Gibson has organized the local relay at Churchill. And Gibson invites people to run or walk a mile around the track in the name of the deceased military member of their choice.

The event is one of many that will take place across the nation Sunday in conjunction with the Run for the Fallen, a cross-country relay that began June 14, Flag Day, at Fort Irwin, Calif., and concludes Sunday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Run for the Fallen is encouraging all Americans to run one mile Sunday in honor of a U.S. military member who has given his or her life in Iraq.

The idea is the brainchild of Jon Bellona, whose roommate at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., Army 1st Lt. Michael Cleary, was also killed by a roadside explosion in Iraq, in 2005.

According to the event's Web site, the run is an "apolitical reflection" to "raise awareness about the lives of those soldiers who fought, to activate their memories and keep their spirits alive, to support organizations that help wounded veterans and the families of those killed."

Although it's not an event specifically to raise money, those who participate Sunday are encouraged to donate to organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, the Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Seven Stars Foundation.

Bellona and about 10 friends and former classmates have been running about 60 miles a day, in a relay-type fashion, since June 14. They've covered 13 states, placing flags and placards with the names of each military member killed in the war during their 4,000-plus-mile trek - one mile for each death.

On Aug. 2, Day 49 of the relay, Sgt. Gibson was one of 60 memorialized during the run from the Kentucky/ Tennessee border to Cunningham, Tenn.

"It really was exciting for me to see that these guys were doing something for people they didn't know," Linda Gibson says. …