By David Yon
The publication and response to Tom Brokow’s The Greatest Generation, James Bradley’s Flags of Our Fathers and Andrew Carroll’s War Letters seem to reflect a craving in our society to reach out in the digital information revolution to connect with the letter writing generations of war veterans that have lived through the fire of combat, most often choosing to keep the horror of the experience locked up inside. The stories in these books open up a world of conflict, destruction and heroism that remind us of all that is good and bad about war. This, plus club member Gary Griffin’s timely reminder about this year’s National Moment of Remembrance, triggered a slightly different view of this year’s Gate to Gate Run for me.
The Gate to Gate 4.4 Mile Run on Memorial Day has a special tradition that attempts to capture the spirit of Memorial Day. As each runner arrived this morning they were given a bright red carnation. The announcement at the start of the race said that over 2200 runners and walkers had registered for this year’s race, a jump of over 500 above last year’s event. Hundreds of them lined up at the start with their carnations and a mission – carry them to the Veterans Memorial just past the mile mark on the course and drop them there. It is a very understated, but wonderful way to make the race a special way of remembering those who have died in wars. And somehow, carrying a carnation while running seems to connect with something as “primitive” as writing a letter. One thousand five hundred and fifteen runners finished the race and 324 walkers completed the course in spite of temperatures that probably started around 80 degrees and climbed near 90. GWTC’s best finisher was Gene Opheim who took second in the walk with a time of 39:45.
My first experience with the tragedy of war was watching a much older friend pack up his bags and head off to Vietnam. I don’t remember much about it, but I am pretty sure he volunteered. This friend left long before I began to think of the Vietnam War as “morally” wrong and when he came back in a casket I am sure I felt he had died for a good cause. As the years rolled on and I left home, my views about many things changed and I certainly lost any enthusiasm I might have had for that war. War memorials still bring conflicting thoughts. Many have made incredible sacrifices, some with their lives and others with their souls. To think we can somehow make all of this right with a memorial is way too simplistic. War itself is far too complex for that and most of those who give so much do so with the hope that they are fighting the last war. Like most, I despise war so much that it is easy to say never again and to simply forget those that have lived through it hoping that will assure no more conflicts. But I think books like Brokow’s, Bradley’s and Carroll’s give those who participated a voice to tell about their experiences and give us all a chance to hear more than just a war story, but to learn about an experience. In that way we learn that these heroes should not be forgotten and that dropping a carnation in the middle of a run is a wonderful way to remember.
The GWTC racing team captured second place, losing out to the McGuire’s Sunset runners by almost seven minutes, but topping fourteen other open teams and a host of military teams. Tim Unger did another great job of putting together a great team. Nearly twenty-five runners competed on the team. The top female and top three males scored. The top scores included Art Remillard, Bill McGuire, Kate Wallace and Tim. The area award winners were: Paul Spangler (5th overall, 1st age 25-29 and a member of the McGuire’s team!), Art Remillard (13th overall, 3rd age group), Tim Unger (2nd master), Bill McGuire (3rd master, 1st grandmaster), Greg Waddell (3rd age 35-39), Dwayne Maddron (1st age 40-44), David Yon (2nd 45-49), Cynthia Campbell (3rd overall), Kate Wallace (2nd age 20-24), Jerry Ongley (1st age 50-54), Bob Prentiss (3rd age 50-54), Mary Jean Yon (2nd masters) and Howard Kessler (5th 55-59). Complete results are available at http://users.arc.net/results/. All local finishers are listed here. I can’t (and wouldn’t) tell who carried a carnation and who didn’t.
Jones and Company was there again blaring out the R&B tunes. They started things out with an awesome performance of the national anthem. While GWTC members did run well during the race, I am sorry to report they fell a bit short on the dance floor during the post race party. Sarah – it is time for you to return!