Memorial Day

Remember Our Fallen with Wear Blue this Memorial Day

Wear blue: run to remember member and Gold Star mom Sybil Williamson holds a ribbon dedicated to her son, Army Sgt. Patrick Williamson, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)
Wear blue: run to remember member and Gold Star mom Sybil Williamson holds a ribbon dedicated to her son, Army Sgt. Patrick Williamson, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)

This Memorial Day, men and women from around the country will be walking and running together to honor the service and sacrifice of our nation's service members. Specifically, this Wear Blue: Run to Remember event focuses on honoring those that were killed in the Global War on Terror.

Participate to Show Your Appreciation

You can participate individually, or as part of a meet-up or local chapter. Participating helps raise awareness of the cause, but also helps you stay fit -- the program asks that you commit to a distance above and beyond what you're normal training entails. Most of all, this is about "honor and remembrance," so join in as your way of honoring the men and women who gave their lives for our country.

If you choose to participate with the local chapters, you get to participate in community wide events that will include marked running routes, a shared meal, and more. As an extra reminder of your service to this cause, Wear Blue will be assigning names of fallen service members to each participant, to truly honor each individual with your steps.

As an all-volunteer organization, donations go back to funding the mission and executing programs.

How it All Started

Lisa Hallett and Erin O'Connor started Wear Blue following the losses suffered by the 5-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Lisa's husband, CPT John Hallett, was one of the four soldiers killed during that deployment.

Since Lisa and Erin had already established a support network and weekly run while the brigade was deployed, they kept it going and soon turned it into a nationwide community. These active duty and retired service members, military families, Wounded Warriors, Gold Star families and community members, now runs to honor all military members killed in combat.
 
The groups meet weekly, and before a run they call out the name of military members killed on that weekend over the last thirteen years of war, in what they call the "Circle of Remembrance." The runners then call out the names of people they personally will run for. The runs during official Wear Blue events include hand-held flags along the run, with large posters of the fallen service members.

Interview with a Founder

We had the opportunity to speak with Lisa about what Wear Blue means to her and how she's seen it impact and help others.

Q: I understand you put Wear Blue together after you personally felt the pain of losing a loved one to the war on terror, but how did it evolve into what it is today?

Erin O'Connor, a fellow military spouse, and myself, had both leaned on running throughout our families' military careers. Erin brought me dinner when my daughter, Heidi, was born, and, just three weeks later, brought me dinner when John had been killed. She vowed to help me through the grieving process as a running partner. We pounded the pavement that year, and the community on home soil joined our steps.

Losing a loved one is hard, but so is military life. Deployment, reintegration, frequent PCS, etc. Military families are resilient, but, we recognized, when the unit returned from deployment, that they too needed a place to honor their fallen comrades, reconnect with their families, and have the community as a part of their support network moving forward.

Wear Blue has never been about creating something big; it has always been about creating something needed. It's always about the right effort at the right time. Authentic growth, meaningful communities, serving the needs of our military and their families, our veterans, and our families of the fallen.

Q: How has participating in it and seeing others rally around the cause affected you?

The tragedy that my family faced, that many of our military families endure, is not one of chance. John chose to be in the military, well aware of the risks it carried. The tricky part is, John's gift of his life, the ultimate gift for all of our freedoms, has become his children's sacrifice.

Since 9/11, 6,882 Americans have given their lives in service to our nation in the Global War on Terror. 6,882 families like mine, with their own stories, their own Johns, their own Jackson, Bryce, and Heidi's. We have only begun to see the scar tissue of the past decade of war.

With Memorial Day only days away, we have a chance to pair our actions with this immense courage and sacrifice. At Wear Blue, we invite our community to run or walk in honor of fallen service members. Patriots head to the Wear Blue website, commit miles, 1 or 100, and then are matched with the name and story of a fallen hero. Then, on Memorial Day, runners can join a community, or walk out their front door, say the name of their honored fallen hero, and then run.

When we say a name out loud, we bridge worlds; we give substance to the legacies of our country's fallen military heroes. AND, in the ritual of saying their names, we remember them. Their families. How they died. What they died for. Who they died for. And we are charged with a responsibility to live.

Q: You must hear a lot of stories about how being part of something like this has touched people and helped them over the years. Are there certain stories that stand out and you can share with us?

A: Yes, see the vidoes below, with Steele Clayton in the first and Denny Bemardy and Blake maggart in the second, to hear two stories that we've highlighted leading up to Memorial Day:

Q: What keeps you excited about Wear Blue?

As my life moves forward, this is my seventh Memorial Day honoring my husband John, I find the greatest comfort in knowing that each week I have a place to continue to honor him, to share his stories, and to be inspired by others. I can find joy in moving forward, knowing that I always have a place to honor and celebrate John. 

When we say a name out loud, we bridge worlds: our souls with reality. We make the past present. Each time we hold a Circle of Remembrance, especially on Memorial Day, we give substance to the legacies of our country's fallen military heroes. I'll repeat what I said above --  In the ritual of saying their names, we remember them. Their families. How they died. What they died for. Who they died for. And we are charged with a responsibility to live. To live with purpose. To live more fully.

Q: Also, for clarity. The walkers/ runners don't take pledges. It's more about bringing attention to our fallen service members, and donations?

Exactly! There is no cost to run. This is not a fundraiser. Running on Memorial Day is about remembering the fallen in a life affirming way, as a part of a national community who understands, respects, and honors the service and sacrifice of the American military.

To participate, sign up at the Wear Blue website.

Related Topics

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