July 20th, 2019. 5AM. Taylor, MI. Normally, this would not be a time for me to arrive pretty much anywhere. But today is a different day. Today is the day where I would have the privilege to volunteer for the Running to Honor 5k. I was excited to be part of it, though I really didn’t know what to fully expect. Being somewhere at 5AM can seem daunting, but man, you really can’t complain about something as trivial as that as there have been so many that have fought for our freedom and have made the absolute sacrifice.
Shortly after 5am, Project Manager, and founder of the Running to Honor Non-Profit, Aaron Bartal, brought all of the volunteers together to give a quick run down on how the day would go. Each of us had signed up for different positions. I signed up where Aaron told me to go, so I was part of the QPR team. This is the team that could help anywhere that was needed. And boy, was this an absolutely great team to be part of. A fellow veteran that served with Aaron was on this team, and he drove across multiple states to be here to help support the dream of his fellow soldier. What an impact Aaron has had, not only on those that he is supporting through this 5k, but truly anyone who has crossed his path.
“Freedom isn’t free and we must not forget those who sacrificed for us. I am keeping their memories alive.” – Aaron Bartal
My first job was to help arrange the table that had the American Flags that all participants could have an opportunity to run with, along with the suicide prevention ribbons. Three of us made this table beautiful, as it deserved. As the opening ceremonies were about to begin, I saw that many had not seen the table, and started handing out the flags to participants and families. This really was a fantastic experience. So many participants wanted to run with a flag, and everyone wanted the suicide prevention ribbon. It really was just an amazing thing to experience.
Opening ceremonies were amazing. From the young soon to be star singer, to the reason we were all there that day. To honor veterans, and those who have fallen. Nearly 100 names were read of soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice. I am sure nearly everyone in that room had the same goosebumps I had. Wow. This is the reason we were all here. And Aaron Bartal had a dream to do just this, and he has accomplished it.
From the displays of fallen soldiers, to the empty dinner tables, to the bell that was rang after each name was read, this event was one of the most impactful and moving projects I have been to. And it had an impact on every single person who participated, volunteered, or even ran the virtual 5K. They had over 600 participants for the 5K and raised approximately $10,000 to go towards solar panels that will reduce the utility that they Wyandotte VFW Post 1136 is crippled with. What an amazing impact that this FIRST year event has had on everyone involved.
This event was also one of the best ran events I have seen in a long time. I know that there were some challenges along the way, and things have come out afterwards about those challenges, but you could not tell any of them during the event. I was pretty close to the event as a volunteer, but even I didn’t know those challenges. Challenges come at us with every project we do, but just with life, its how we react to them. And this was the best I’ve ever seen.
Thank you Aaron, for allowing me to be part of this amazing and most impactful event. Thank you for doing everything you have done to honor those that mean so much. Most of all, thank you for being you. You are so inspiring, and everyone needs to hear your passion and your heart for what is so important.
There is so much more I want to write, but this would be so long. If you missed the Running to Honor 5k this year, you can still run the virtual 5K and donate. And next year, you should have this on your calendar. Be part of this event in any way you can. For me, I will be there bright and early on race day, and be part of one of the most impactful events I’ve ever been part of.
Your District 4 Director,