For Cynthia Ibarra, and others involved in the organization Wear Blue: Run to Remember, running is a way to honor the service and sacrifice of U.S. military men and women. We thought it especially fitting to share her story this Independence Day. You can read Cynthia's blog here.
In July of 2009, I was faced with what felt like too much free time on my hands. My fiancé was deployed at the time. With little communication at the beginning of the deployment, all I wanted to do was search the news for anything about his unit. I knew that wasn’t good, so I held myself back. Still, every time my cell phone rang, I hoped it was him. I was always signed in to instant chat hoping he would get to log in that day. I could occupy myself during the day with work and my son, but once he was asleep I had nothing but time to worry.
In August 2009, a month after his unit deployed, they had their first casualty. I waited for a week for his call to say he was OK. One week later, he called to say his Company Commander (CPT) and three of his Soldiers were killed by an IED (improvised explosive device). John Hallett, his CPT, was one of my fiancé’s best friends. I was at work when I got the call, and was in tears all day. All I could think about was the families of the soldiers and CPT. Hallett’s family especially. He had two small boys and a daughter that was born three weeks before his death. He didn’t get to meet or hold her.
I knew that his unit would still be faced with more death and injuries. I noticed that running helped me de-stress. Even though I was just running a couple of miles a week, I started to think about possibly running a half marathon. So I made that my goal for 2010. I had to find ways squeeze in my runs since I worked full time, and had to take care of my son, who was eight years old at the time. Sometimes I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to squeeze in my runs before work on the treadmill or I would run right after work but before I picked up him up from the Boys and Girls club.
For my long runs during the weekends I would take my son to the park and run laps around the park. Once my long run distance started to increase, I would run along side him as he rode his bike. As my runs started to increase over 10 miles my fiancé’s brother would watch him for me. I was so grateful for the support his family gave me while he was deployed; my family was in Idaho and we were stationed in Washington State.
In May 2010 my fiancé returned from deployment and got to watch me run my first half marathon a month later. It was definitely one of the best days of my life. I knew how hard I worked to get to that point and how many miles I had logged. He got to see me cross the finish line.
In February 2010, CPT Hallett’s wife started a running group called Wear Blue: Run to Remember. Their mission is to create a living memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of the American Military. I had the honor of wearing the blue shirt with the names of the 41 Soldiers killed from their deployment on the back for my first marathon, Portland Marathon on 10/10/10.
Now, living back in Idaho, I wear the blue shirt often. It’s my way to honor their families and to show them that their loved ones are not forgotten. Last year I ran Seattle Rock’n’ Roll marathon with Wear Blue Run to Remember and plan to run the marathon with them this year.
I run now to remember and honor the soldiers that gave their lives.