We witness, hear, and experience incredible and motivational personal stories - every one of them inspired by our shipmates who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Several of those stories are below. We invite you to read them, reflect upon them, and share them with anyone in need of motivation.
11 June 2014 - David Wayland, Organizer. West Texas Run to Honor
David is father of Patrick Wayland '10, a Marine pilot who died as a result of a training accident while in Pensacola, FL.
"Patrick was really someone you could look up to and always trust," said longtime friend Tyler Timmons. "I am proud to say that he was a part of our military and serving our country. If we had an army full of Patricks we would never be in trouble."
During the week in the hospital in 2011 I made a lot of promises. One of them I made to myself was that I would run the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in honor of my son. I did not know about Run To Honor, but Matt Moury '82 sent me a shirt and since then the RTH organization has been like family to us. Each MCM, where I reconnect with the larger RTH family, has been meaningful. In 2012 I ran the marathon with Matt and Cam Moury ‘10; both of Patrick's sisters and his mom ran the 10K. In 2013 I ran with Capt. Chris Briley, USMC, who trained Patrick at TBS. In 2014, I’m running the MCM with Alan and Paul Peters, a Marine and his father, I met through Bob Kelly, as well as several other West Texas Team members: Kevin Newton, one of Patrick’s childhood friends, and his wife Paige. In December of 2013 Paige and Kevin got married and in lieu of wedding favors, they donated to RTH in honor of Patrick.
Matt, Cam and I have developed our relationship from comrades in tragedy to friends in honoring and celebrating Patrick’s life. I met Cam, Matt’s son, in Patrick’s hospital room. Cam was Patrick’s classmate at the Academy, became his close friend at TBS, and was his roommate in Pensacola. Cam was one of the first Marines we met when we arrived at the hospital in Pensacola; I don't think he left the hospital that week, often times sleeping in the waiting area. Following Patrick's memorial service, Cam stayed with Patrick all the way to his cremation.
Cam was eager to join me in honoring my promise and ran the 2012 MCM with his father and me. And this time he brought me home: When it came time to make it up the final hill at the Memorial, I had no gas left in the tank. He pushed me up the final turn and we came across the finish line together; that was the second time he had brought a Wayland home. I am so grateful for Cam's enduring friendship with my son and now me. The whole family has been there for Patrick and my family. Jan Moury, Matt’s wife and Cam’s mother, worked closely with the Alumni Association, the Academy and the Marines and the Navy to ensure that Patrick’s name was added to the list of those Midshipmen in Memorial Hall who died in an “Operational Loss.” The Moury family has helped me honor Patrick in so many ways.
So many others have joined me to honor Patrick as I told others about my promise and RTH. From there the West Texas Chapter of RTH was born. Our group has introduced me to new friends and solidified relationships with others. Bob Kelly had been a family friend for many years, joined the group early on and came with my family to the last two RTH dinners. Even though he’s moved to Colorado, we still meet at least once a year to race together. Bob introduced me to his co-worker Alan Peters, whose son is a Marine. This year we all ran the Quantico 17.75k and will run the MCM together. The nucleus of the West Texas RTH Chapter is Brian and Angela Deaver, Kevin and Paige Newton, Jocelyn Piccone, Cynthia Roden and Tina Ortiz, . In April, five of us ran the Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon in Las Vegas; and on June 8th we ran the Wounded Warrior Half Marathon in Dallas.
With RTH on my chest and Patrick’s name on my back I have met other racers – sometimes only in passing – who have encouraged me to push on. When I was running my first MCM in 2012 I had hit the wall at about mile 22. I was just walking along in a daze and wondering what I had gotten myself into when a young man came past me and slapped me on my back. He yelled, “Wayland was my detailer, sir!” and kept on going. I took that as a message from Patrick to suck it up and get moving. So I did.
Running has helped me through difficult days and helped me develop friendships with others who share my passion to honor my son. Running and running buddies help keep me focused on going forward, something I think Patrick would have expected of me. I would encourage everyone to develop a community of like-minded people who will challenge you to honor the fallen… especially when you are out of gas at the bottom of the Memorial Hill.
6 May 2014 - Amy Young Barr
Amy Barr is an amazing and dedicated runner. She is the sister of Jay Young '98 and Andy Young '99. She has run three marathons and two half marathons wearing Run To Honor on her shirt and in her spirit. Here is her story about running Boston in April 2014.
The race may be over, but the memories of my 26.6 (I evidently took a few wide turns) mile journey through 8 spectacular cities on my way to the Boston Marathon finish line will never be forgotten. Boston is unlike any other marathon and the reason I wanted to run it was more than any other race.
My journey to Boston began on June 22, 2013 in Duluth, MN, at Grandma's Marathon. I stood at the starting line and thought to myself. I want to qualify for Boston!!
By mile 16 the idea of going to Boston was no longer such a great idea. But then on April 15th 2013 our country, our marathon, our running community were attacked and devastated by two homemade bombs. I wanted Boston more than ever! During my next race I plowed through mile 16 and beyond.
On Patriots Day, Marathon Monday as Bostonians know it, I donned my Run To Honor shirt with #20926 pinned to the front. Off to Tremont street, alongside the Boston Commons, I walked. When I arrived I was greeted by blocks and blocks of yellow school buses lined up waiting for runners to ride to Hopkinton, Massachusetts. My initial thought: no wonder there is no school in the entire state today!
Runners were put into waves: elite runners, wheelchairs, disabled runners, and waves 1, 2, 3 and 4 which held approximately 9,000 runners per wave. Each wave, based on qualifying time, was then divided into corrals for an assigned start time. Wave 3, corral 3, 11am was my GO TIME! As the old saying goes, "and we're off" down Route 135 on this historical course that hosted its first marathon in 1897.
I quickly realized that New England and South Dakota, my home and training location, have very different topography. I held my pre-determined pace of 8:30 through Ashland, Framington and Natick into Wellesley. During this 2 hours of running, I was engrossed by cheering fans, cow bells, little kids wanting high 5's, big kids having a beer or 3 and barbequing hamburgers, posters telling me how awesome I was, and other posters telling me how many miles I had left to go. The entire course was guarded by gates, armed Boston police, military personnel, dogs, and helicopters. April 21st, Boston was the safest place in the world. The runners and fans were there for a purpose: To take back the finish line and show the world that we are all Boston Strong. We will finish the 118th Boston Marathon, and it will continue for years to come. No more than during this time did I remember those who had given their lives for our country and how I'm grateful I am to honor them.
My pace slowed as I entered the town of Newton, home to Newton Hills and the famous (or infamous) Heartbreak Hill! A car ride to the top would have been nice, but the rowdy crowd gave off enough energy to finally push me over the top where I had only 5 miles left to go. And then the finish line was in sight.
I knew I had done it and would soon be a finisher. Shortly before the finish line in Copley Square there was a grandstand packed with spectators cheering those last few steps and witnessing the smiles and tears of the athletes. No one was afraid to be near the finish line because we are not a country that fears those who wish us harm. United we stand... Boston Strong.
On April 21st I saw courage, strength and patriotism. I observed it in the runners, volunteers, security, fans, runners pushing wheelchairs, and guides leading the blind. However, the real heroes are the men and women who have died for our country so we are free to participate in these great events. I am PROUD to Run to Honor the memory of the sailors and Marines who have lost their lives for my freedom. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this truly awesome group.
23 April 2014 - Michael Marion
I am a native Washingtonian, proud to be born and raised in our nation’s capital. I have spent the last sixteen years in Chicago, another of America’s great metropolitan areas.
From 1987-1990, I attended Gonzaga College High School and still consider my time there to be three of the best years of my life. It was the ultimate in camaraderie and brotherly love and I am grateful to have been able to attend.
One of my classmates was Erik Samsel Kristensen. I knew him as a big dude who was in all of my honors classes, played a lot of sports and got along with everyone. I knew that his dad was pretty high up in the Navy and figured he would go on to the USNA like I hoped to. My dad had been a corpsman in the Navy but always wanted to be a pilot. I did too and looked forward to fulfilling a dream for us both.
Unfortunately, during my sophomore year at Gonzaga, I learned that I had some colorblindness and like a scene out of “Little Miss Sunshine,” was told I’d never be a fixed-wing pilot. Soon after that, I gave up my interest in going to Annapolis. Erik would of course go on to be an outstanding student athlete along with another Gonzaga classmate, Dave Ruppert.
Over the years, I have come to strongly regret my decision not to serve my country. I love the United States and I am so thankful to be an American. I am also extremely grateful that I have the men and women of our armed forces protecting me and my family and my very fortunate way of life.
Since learning of Erik’s death back on that awful day in June of 2005, I have made a conscious effort to thank God every day for him and his sacrifice. He symbolizes everything that is good and strong about our great country and he embodied the Gonzaga mantra of “A man for others.”
One of the many things that the SEALs are known for is their mental and physical endurance. By running in the Marine Corps Marathon, I want to remember and salute Erik and for just a few hours on an October morning, be a symbol of strength and stamina. Whenever I feel weak, I will think of Erik looking down on me and give thanks to him for providing me the opportunity to run in his memory. A couple more miles is the least I can do to show my gratitude.
I learned of Run To Honor through Erik’s mom and am humbled to be a part of the team for the 2014 run. I will train hard and run proudly for Erik and all of the men and women who have given so much for me and this great country.
God Bless Erik and the United States of America and thank you.
18 March 2014 - Brian Peck '95
I wanted to send an update and include some pictures from a run on Saturday, March 15th. I ran "The Georgia Death Race" which starts at Vogel State Park and finishes at Amicalola Falls State Park. The race is 68 miles and has 35,000 feet of elevation change. It was extremely tough but I managed to finish in 21 hours 29 minutes. The race started at 5 am so I finished at 2:30 am (with 2 hours 30 mins to spare!) on Sunday morning. My longest race so far. There were 200 entrants, 171 runners at the start, 111 finishers (65% of starters), I placed 91st. I was ecstatic to make it to the finish line.
My buddy from work came out with his family to cheer me on. They caught up with me at mile 28 after about 17,000 feet of elevation change and took a photo – my legs were like jelly already. I've also included pictures of my Garmin captured elevation profile and my finishers award, an engraved railroad spike.
As always it was great to share the RTH story which is the motivation for this insane running. There were MANY, MANY times when I was hitting low points and told myself, "Doug [Zembiec] wouldn't stop. Erik [Kristensen] wouldn't stop." So I kept moving onward: To Honor!
15 December 2013 - Brian Peck '95
What an amazing win by Navy yesterday! Normally I spend the day watching the game and drinking some great beer with local Alumni here in Greenville, SC. This year however I had the opportunity to honor Doug and our classmates in the longest run of my life.
I was blessed with good health and a patient family who allowed me to train and complete the Table Rock Ultra. It’s a single clockwise loop around the Linville Gorge in the Appalachians outside of Morganton, NC. This was the first time I’ve started a race before sunrise and finished after sunset — something I’ve only read about before.
After 11 hours and 25 mins of running I finished the 52.5 mile course through the mountains. It was scheduled for 54 miles but the short out and back to the very top of Table Rock Mountain was deemed too treacherous by the race director due to ice. Just like the Midshipman at the A/N game the conditions were tough. The temperatures were in the low to mid 30’s and at one point it rained and sleeted for 6 straight hours. Thanks to my wife Heather who acted as race crew and supplied me with dry socks, gloves, hats, shirts, and plenty of lube. There were also selfless volunteers who manned 14 aid stations despite the rain/sleet to fuel us.
There were many times during the race that I thought about Doug to keep me pushing through the cold and the distance. I feel confident that even a physical fitness animal like him could respect what I was trying to do. As I’ve mentioned before in these updates, the Run To Honor organization has changed my life, taking me to new places I’d not thought possible. It’s allowed me to set a better example for my kids and others around me. Thank you again.