by Tech. Sgt. Tyrona Lawson
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The weather was crisp and stern. With a 30 percent chance of rain and a low temperature of 43 degrees, runners adorned their various costumes and neon running suits with scarves and gloves as they prepared to run a 5K in memory of Airman 1st Class Zachary Ryan Cuddeback.
With bib numbers tacked on and runners heading toward the starting line, the roaring of the voices were loud but muddled.
What were the people talking about? Some may have asked, “Who was he?” Some may have said, “I miss him. I wish he was here.” Others may have recalled that fateful day.
I can’t be certain as to the words spoken, but I think it’s safe to say through all the noise, excitement and adrenaline rushing through the crowd, everyone was remembering Cuddeback.
“He touched so many lives and was always there if anyone needed anything. It’s only appropriate for us to have one of the biggest 5K runs for one of the biggest personalities,” said Staff Sgt. Melanie McBride, 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron.
As the race started, I took the time to talk with a few volunteers. Whether it was helping runners register, collecting donations, directing runners along the route, or passing out water, more than 200 KMC residents committed their time to the memory of Cuddeback, affectionately known as “Cudde.”
When asked why he volunteered, Staff Sgt. Dwain Burton, 86th VRS, said, “I want to show my support. (Cuddeback) was a really good kid. Volunteering for this is important because he was a part of my squadron. I feel more attached to this memorial run.”
I spoke to about 15 volunteers that day. Many didn’t know Cuddeback personally. They never shook his hand, never rode on a vehicle driven by him, never passed a puck to him during a hockey game or even caught a glimpse of his smile.
They couldn’t tell you when or where he was born or any funny stories from his childhood. The one thing that was evident and stood constant in every conversation was the spirit of Cudde.
Cudde was a young man with an in-your-face personality and a contagiously positive attitude that made you want to be around him. He was a go-getter, motivator and selfless giver.
“He was constantly volunteering anytime he could. He participated in every sport and all squadron activities,” said Staff Sgt. Monica Luna, 86th VRS.
As the last of the runners crossed the finish line and the race concluded, the feeling of success was paramount.
Yes, the memorial run brought about 950 runners. Yes, the event raised $19,006 in honor of Cuddeback. And yes, a vast amount of the proceeds will benefit charitable organizations throughout the KMC.
These milestones are wonderful achievements for the KMC, but more so, the infectious sense of service before self, the desire to honor the honorable, and the prideful joy of accomplishment was the great success of the day.
On that day, March 2, a day that could have brought solemn remembrance in our minds with words such as “Frankfurt,” “the attack” and “the fallen,” the Zachary Ryan Cuddeback 5K Memorial Run left me with words of remembrance, such as son, brother, teammate, friend, motivator, volunteer, hard worker, honor, hero, wingman and one word that will never be stripped away: Airman.
The 86th VRS has a motto: So others may roll.
It is with these virtues and the legacy left behind that Cuddeback drives us to continue to roll.
His honor will forever be passed on and endowed in our heritage. Honor Super Omnia!