Soldiers run their own race to remember the fallen while reminding us all of the costs of war

Published: Sunday, Nov. 10 2013 4:05 p.m. MST

The entire Indiana National Guard unit was sent on a mission mid-race. Those 10 runners were participants on four of the teams, which meant their teammates had to run their miles in order for the team to finish.

That is not uncommon in Ragnar races. Someone gets hurt, someone falls ill. And if the team wants to cross the finish line, another person has to carry that burden, they have to run those miles. If they do, the team earns the same medal every other team earns.

“Only two of us were initially expected to run 25-plus miles in the event,” Roberts wrote Saturday night. “I imagine that we had at least a half a dozen do so. … And remember only a couple of us were adequately trained for this event. While most of these runners were quite fit, very few had put up significant mileage in the months prior to this event. It was incredible to see some of the pain that these folks were in, and then watch them gut through another leg in the middle of a frigid night, running through puddles that would inevitably draw the chill into their bones. By the onset of the nighttime chill and fog, the Ragnar spirit had firmly caught on within the soldiers, as every runner, regardless of team, was hoarsely and heartily cheered on by all onlookers from other teams.”

They were, after all, running to honor the memory of those we lost. And sacrifice is something these soldiers are intimately familiar with. There was never any question that all five teams would cross the finish line.

It seems Veterans Day is the perfect time to try to understand just what these dedicated, selfless men and women sacrifice for this country and our allies.

“One of my soldiers missed the birth of his baby last night,” Roberts wrote. “Today, he rolled out on a convoy and continued to do his duty. When Americans think of our service out here, they think of combat and firefights. While those moments come from many of our soldiers, the greatest hardship they experience is separation from their families. I left four weeks after my baby boy, my first child, was born. He has fiery red hair and a smile that lights up the room. I see this through the lens of a smartphone. He will crawl for the first time soon. Hopefully I will hear about it within 24 hours. This is the story of each of my soldiers. They will miss irreplaceable moments and do it with determination and courage in their hearts. They leave their families in order to protect them. They willingly stand in the gap between tyranny and freedom to leave a free and secure society intact for their loved ones.”

Running shadow races seems so small compared to what these soldiers do and endure every day. But it’s those small moments that make them feel whole. It’s in the tiniest details that they find the remnants of lives they put on hold to protect the United States and all it stands for.

“Many of these soldiers have not been with their families for the better part of a year,” Roberts said. “Some have spent a significant portion of their lives fighting in the Middle East. They miss the casual kiss of a spouse, the baby in their arms, running through the woods, an evening out with friends. They miss the homeland that they are fighting to defend. And on race day, with an unusually eclectic band of friends by their side, they will be allowed to dream of home.”

Twitter: adonsports

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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