COLUMBUS, Ohio (WMCH) — As participants made their way to the starting line for the National Veterans Memorial and Museum’s Memorial Day 5K Run, Walk, Ruck & Roll on Sunday, most of them dawned a customized shirt from the museum.
It bore the name of the event on the front, while the back featured an empty horizontal box that prompted participants to handwrite their beloved veterans’ names — for whom they’d be walking and running — under the words “I will always remember.”
“I’ve learned that you can’t stop saying their names,” Air Force Major General Sharon Bannister said. “My dad used to write letters home, and at the bottom, he said ‘Be good’ — at the end of every letter.”
For people like Bannister, who is set to retire after 31 years of service, Saturday morning brought an opportunity to not only take on a challenge, but to allow the story of people like her father, Captain Stephen A. Rusch, to be told and never forgotten.
“My dad was shot down three days before my sixth birthday, so I realized I was joining something bigger than myself.” Bannister said.
Some of the runners came with friends, families, and co-workers, while others came to simply support and remember those that gave their lives defending the U.S. Several organizations dedicated to helping veterans joined the race, like Team Red, White & Blue, whose members ran with the American flag.
“It’s everything,” Team RWB and veteran Edward Ralston said. “My father was a World War II vet, and we like to give back. We run with the flags because we represent the guys that couldn’t.”
The race was one of many Memorial Day-related events the museum has planned for the weekend, as it sees helping to remember those who have served as most important to them, according to the museum’s Corporate Relations Manager Zach Matthews.
“This is an opportunity to bring folks together both here in Central Ohio and then across the country to support the museum while also remembering those who gave their lives four our country,” Matthews said.
As the race commenced, runners were in the front and walkers were in the back. Whether they ran or walked the entire five kilometers, it did not matter. Everyone was there to support one another and to keep the memory of those they’d lose with them. While the marker on the back may be able to wash off, the memory of those that had served and died will never fade away.
The museum has several more events planned for the weekend, including an 8 p.m. candlelight vigil for Gold Star families who have lost a loved one. The weekend ends with a remembrance ceremony at 10 a.m. on Monday.