POW/MIA memorial flag run

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A 24-hour Prisoner of War and Mission in Action memorial flag run kicked off at 4:30 p.m. May 24 at the Hercules Theater on Ramstein to honor military POWs and MIAs.

The memorial run was planned by Senior Airman Kyle Gibson, 86th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control.

“When I was at Langley, we had a memorial run,” he said. “I talked to a few people here about doing one on base because I thought it was an exceptional thing to take part in and wanted to give others the opportunity.”

Nearly 30 different organizations from around the KMC took part in the memorial run.

The Vogelweh and Ramstein commissaries donated water, sports drinks, power bars and fruit to participants.

“I came out because there isn’t a better thing to support than this,” said Airman 1st Class Jeremii Van Komen, 86th OSS air traffic control.

Runners made a 1.8-mile loop around a section of the base, handing off the flag at the Hercules Theater as the runners came around.

“We decided to use the route we did for maximum visibility,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Almanza, 86th OSS air traffic control. “Especially considering some of the running will be done in the dark.”

Before the 24-hour run began, Gibson gave everyone something to think about.

“Over the next 24 hours this flag will not stop,” he said. “They didn’t stop for us so we’re not going to stop in remembrance of those who gave everything defending our freedom.”

The 86th OSS ran the first leg, which kicked off the event.

“There is no greater thing we can do to honor the fallen, the missing and those who paid the ultimate price,” said Airman 1st Class Frederick Leary, 86th OSS air traffic control.

At midnight, two Airmen with the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Ground Operation

School took the flag in full combat gear. The gear consisted of body armor, several different types of radios, a global positioning system, satellite communications, compasses, water and more. The equipment totaled about 70 pounds.

“That’s how the POWs and MIAs did it,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Dvareckas, USAFE AGOS joint terminal attack controller. “They weren’t in PT gear while fighting.”

Members from the Navy participated in the event as well.

“I saw it as a good opportunity to give back to the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who selflessly sacrificed everything,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Strode, hospital corpsman. “We need to remember what they did for us.”

Two Airmen made a goal to run for the full 24 hours.

“I am training for the Belgian Death March and this is a good way to see where I’m at,” said Airman 1st Class Brittany Davis, 786th Force Support Squadron services. “What better way to test my ability and give my support to POWs and MIAs.”

They ran the majority of the 24 hours, stopping only to refill water, use the restroom and change clothes.

At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the two led the last group of runners and took the flag to the retreat ceremony.

“Being at retreat with the flag was moving,” Gibson said. “Planning this event and carrying it through has been rough, however it was completely and 100 percent worth it.”

At the end of the 24 hours, about 350 participants and the memorial flag traveled a total of 151.2 miles.