JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Run for the Fallen is a three-day journey that covers more than 170 miles from Tallahassee to Jacksonville to honor the brave men and women from Florida in all branches of the military who gave their lives fighting the 'War on Terror.'
Flags marked the finishing route. Proud colors, red, white and blue waving in the wind. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders waiting for their runners.
"It means a lot, with the Patriot Guard, we're here to stand with our veterans," said Richard Vernon. "Normally we do that in funerals, this is what we call a HOTHF mission, Help on the Home Front. Your emotions, you always feel it, every mission you do you always have emotions, because it's all about our veterans. It's not about us or anyone else, it's those veterans that we honor."
Two days earlier 20 marathon trained runners began their trek from the state's capital. But this wasn't a sprint, rather a deliberate journey. Every mile they stopped to pay tribute to Gold Star Families.
Off they ran, with more than 100 stops along the way. Two Gold Star Families waited for the runners at mile marker 138 near the corner of Hammond Blvd and West Beaver Street. After the names were read a rotation of runners lined up to pay their respects to the families during the Run for the Fallen.
"We do it in remembrance," said Marine veteran Daniel Mease II. "When I was in Afghanistan in the Marines we lost 17, a lot of those names are on this list. So running for those names and their families who can't be here, and my father. The pain that we feel in the three days is nothing compared to the pain that these families feel, so we just suck it up and keep going."
"It means a lot to me, I have family and friends in the military," said Jonathan Vedia, "I know they paid the ultimate sacrifice, and I'm here to help them through the grieving process."
Their final destination for this run was the Veteran's Memorial Wall, but honoring the brave men and women who gave their lives for our country is an honor they live by every day.
"One of the most important things we can do as Americans is appreciate the freedoms that we have every day," said George Lutz, founder of Honor & Remember. "And that's because men and women sacrificed themselves, the families are willing to raise up these heroes and put them on the line for all of us. As a Gold Star father and all of these families that are Gold Star Families appreciate is that somebody's willing to say thank you and one of the most important ways we can say thank you is by calling their names out loud. So over the last three days, those who gave their lives from the state of Florida, over 1100 names and put them on markers for three days from Tallahassee to Jacksonville so for three days, every day, every mile, we have called out their names, so they're not forgotten."
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