Running to Remember: Keeping Stories of the Fallen Alive One Mile at a Time

Lisa Hallett always knew the value of a good run; it’s how she burned off the stress of Army life. But in 2009, running became her lifeline.

On Aug. 25 of that year, Lisa’s husband, Capt. John Hallett, was one of four men killed in Afghanistan. Throughout the deployment, his unit, the Fifth Stryker Brigade, suffered 37 additional fatalities.

Back home, life felt out of control.

“I was broken,” Lisa says. She turned to running to deal with the loss. “I pounded the pavement for the sorrow, for all the dreams and love I had lost.” But Lisa wasn’t running alone. She soon found support in her community of military spouses. They gathered for weekly runs, even in their darkest hours. “We leaned on what we knew, running,” Lisa says.

MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER

The group evolved, so Lisa and her running partner, Erin O’Connor, got organized. They rallied their group behind the mission of running to remember. They wore their husbands’ blue PT shirts, which sported the slogan, “Warning: 800 pounds of pure whoop-ass.” It might not have been the phrase the spouses would have chosen, but it reminded them why they ran.

Before each run, the spouses recited the names of their deployed fighters in a Circle of Remembrance. They ran to remember the fallen, the fighting and the families. They ran to heal. “I slowly realized that, as I was running from the pain that life had handed me, I was running to something more,” Lisa recalls. “I was running to strength, hope and confidence for the future.” With their community’s support and new blue shirts, Lisa and Erin founded the national nonprofit, wear blue: run to remember.

FOOTPRINTS ACROSS THE NATION

wear blue is dedicated to remembering fallen service members and supporting families through active remembrance. Its name is intentionally written in lower-case letters. “The mission is bigger than the name,” Lisa explains. “Those who are honored should be the focus.” wear blue has Saturday Run communities in 50 cities. Before each run, participants speak the names of fallen service members.

They run so that the fallen are never forgotten. When Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Simpson died in Afghanistan in 2013, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord running community immediately ran to remember him. His widow and 2018 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® Krista Simpson Anderson heard about this and joined them. It was 11 days after Mike’s passing. “The wear blue community gave me a safe place to grieve and heal,” Krista says. wear blue dedicates a tribute wear blue mile to 12 races nationwide.

Posters of fallen service members line the first half of the mile, and volunteers hold American flags along the second half. The design purposely creates a space for remembrance, but then opens to a “fierce celebration of life, love of country and our charge to live in the aftermath of service members who have given their all,” Lisa says.

Mimi Ferritti lost her husband, Sgt. Shawn P. Martin (USMC), in Iraq in 2007. As one of wear blue’s Gold Star racers, she ran through a wear blue mile at the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon. It was her first race ever. At mile 12, Mimi reached the wear blue mile and saw Shawn’s memorial poster. “For a moment, it broke me,” she says, describing the picture of Shawn’s “giant smile.”

Here, Mimi embodied the heart of wear blue’s mission: perseverance.

“The legacy of death is life,” Lisa says. “In the face of service members who have given their all, we’re called upon to live with our all. And nowhere is this more present than in the strides of a long run.”

Mimi stood up and kept running, fueled by the cheers from the flag line. In the company of fellow wear blue runners, she triumphantly crossed the finish line. And as long as runners keep pushing harder, going farther and crossing the finish line, the lives of the fallen will always be honored.

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