Fifteen years. Today marked the 15th year since our nation’s world got flipped upside down. Terror struck in New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, and has united our nation like nothing else. Every year we take time to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our nation.
On a chilly, foggy morning in Groveport, 150 people met at the Groveport Recreational Center to participate in a 20-kilometer run, “Ruck. Run. Remember.” to memorialize those who perished. The volunteers set up booths early in anticipation of the racers' arrival.
Run. Ruck. Remember. was a unique event in which participants had three options to complete the 20-kilometer trek: They could run the whole 20 kilometers, ruck the whole 20 kilometers, or partially do both.
According to military.com, rucking “can be as simple as walking around with a backpack on a hike or as difficult as moving fast with all your military gear."
The runners took off first at 8:46 a.m., when an airplane struck the first tower on 9/11. The ruckers left the gate at 9:02 a.m., when the second tower was struck.
Some of the ruckers chose to ruck the first 9 kilometers, dropping their gear off midway and running the remaining 11 kilometers, while some individuals rucked the whole 20 kilometers.
I’ve had the incredible opportunity to play a role in these runs and events for the past three years, as it is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.
Having an uncle in the military myself, I have always had a deep respect for those who dedicate their time and lives to serve our country. I remember when my uncle first got deployed overseas, to Iraq, and how that affected me even at the nine years old.
My uncle has since served a total of three deployments and has become a major in the National Guard. Through his service, he continues to give back and has played an incredible role in the birth and growth of the Fallen 15 organization.
The Fallen 15 is a veteran-based charity in Columbus, with two goals surrounding the veterans, according to co-founder — my uncle — Marshall Jackson.
Those goals are to memorialize 15 different fallen service members from Columbus every year and to put on events that get veterans off the couch and being active.
“These events are designed to talk with other veterans, talk with community members and really bring a sense of camaraderie into what we’re doing,” Jackson said.
Ruck. Run. Remember. was a unique event to memorialize those who fell in the attacks. Runners and ruckers had the opportunity to walk, run or ruck for any of the fallen victims.
Going to these events, I am always humbled by the people who come out and participate.
“He dared me to do it; that’s what it came down to,” said Brad Hottle, who ran for his friend and fellow National Guard member Christopher Rowberry. “When you have events like this you want to go out … support the community … (and) make a good vision for everyone in the community for the National Guard.”
At ages 13 and 11, respectively, the attacks on 9/11 were what pushed the two men to enlist when they were old enough.
“You could almost say it was put into our destiny. It’s like you have that spark that just gets ignited by whatever circumstance,” Hottle said, “whether some people say it’s a car accident or some people say it’s seeing a first shooting star at night or whatever — ours was Sept. 11, and that’s what drove us to do what we do today.”
The two came out to Ruck. Run. Remember. to support the local organization, and are members of the DCo1-137 out of Rickenbacker.
“It’s one of those days in American history that changed the way we are,” Rowberry said. “Like Pearl Harbor, we still are at war today because of it, and it’s just changed the way things happen.”
Some ran for friends or family, some ran to come out and support and some ran to challenge themselves and sacrifice a couple hours of strenuous labor to memorialize those who perished.
It was incredible seeing the array of people who came out to memorialize those who lost their lives, while also supporting this local organization.
Although Ruck. Run. Remember. was just one of many events put on to memorialize those who perished, it meant so much to the founders, volunteers, sponsors and participants.
“We have to do events like this because the farther we get away from this thing that really was the catalyst of everything that’s happened —at least military speaking— the more we’re going to forget. And I can’t allow that to happen,” Jackson said.