Thursday, February 12, 2015

Run for the Fallen

Looking back I was thinking about an event that happened several years ago. I was contacted by a group that was planing to run from California to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were to leave a flag and a small card describing each Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman lost in the war on terror. They originally wanted to start at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, because they mistakenly believed that units deploying to the war departed from there. We talked and I explained that units trained at the National Training Center before deployment and that MCLB Barstow supported the training, not deployment of Army units. I suggested that the best place to start the run was at our "Painted Rocks" where units who train at NTC can paint their unit patch on a rock. I presented the event to the Chief of Staff who immediately and totally rejected the idea. He stated that it would be a negative story for the Army. I pointed out that the group was going to do the run, no matter what our participation was. The only choice was how we would be perceived in the media for the next several months; they would either say "We began our run at Fort Irwin" or "the Army would not support us." The chief didn't care and told me no. When I briefed the Commanding General on upcoming events, I left in the slide on the "Run for the Fallen." The CG liked the idea, the chief was really pissed. He told me after the brief that they could start at the rocks, but we would not provide ANY support. When the day came for the run to start, the CG showed up in BDU's. As it turned out, the organizer of the run was inspired by the loss of his college roommate who was killed in the war on terror. Among the runners were family members of the fallen roommate. As the CG was talking to the family, the sister of the fallen Soldier mentioned the officer who had brought her brother home, as it turned out he was stationed at Fort Irwin. Unfortunately, the officer was on leave and could not be at the start of the run. There was a great deal of emotion which ended with the CG, his wife, the sister and roommate hugging and openly crying. When the run started, the CG suddenly took off and ran with the lead runner. I took several shots and sent them into the DoD. A few days later, my wife and I were staying at a hotel in Salt Lake City. When I got up in the morning I was greeted by this story in USA Today
I share this because of my friend Guy who believes that Public Affairs Officers are never listened to. This was one time, the big boss listened and we won.

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