As their feet hit the pavement of Sampson County roads, a group of runners gripped the poles of flags as they flapped in the wind.
With beads of sweat dripping, they caught their breath after each mile before honoring soldiers who died fighting for the United States during the War on Terror with a short ceremony on the road. With the assistance of local law enforcement, “America’s Run for the Fallen” came through Sampson County. The journey of more than 6,000 miles started at Fort Irwin, Calif., and will end at Arlington National Cemetery.
The run will ultimately span 120 days and 19 states. Thursday was Day 111.
“We’re running across America for all of those service members who gave their lives in the last 18 years for our country,” said George Lutz, founder of the Honor and Remember organization which organizes the run.
At each mile stop, the names of military service men and women killed on a different day were read aloud.
They ran to the next mile and read more names. Along the way, Lutz took pictures of the short ceremonies, which included a runner holding up the “Honor and Remember” flag. Lutz created the veteran and Gold Star Family organization after his son, George Anthony Lutz II was killed in combat. While serving in Fallujah, Iraq, he was killed by a sniper. Lutz later created the nonprofit organization and designed a flag as national symbol for soldiers who died since in combat.
After taking a break in Cumberland County Wednesday, they traveled through Sampson County. Some of the places they ran through included Spivey’s Corner, downtown Clinton and Turkey.
They stopped by Warsaw on Thursday and were scheduled to arrive in Jacksonville on Friday. According to a news release, they will take a circuitous route through Acorn Forest and New River before arriving at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens. For the next day, the runners are running from Jacksonville to Washington, N.C., passing through Pollocksville, New Bern and Vanceboro. On Sunday, runners will take a day of rest in Washington near the Pamlico River.
Next, runners will travel from Washington to Edenton, passing through Woodland Acres, Windsor and Merry Hill. On Tuesday, the crew will travel from Edenton to the North Carolina-Virginia border, passing through Hertford, Elizabeth City and Shawboro.
North Carolina was the 18th state they ran through on their way to Arlington Cemetery. They expect to arrive by Sunday, Aug. 5.
“Mile by mile, we’re honoring those men and women who gave all for the freedoms that we enjoy,” Lutz said.
For more information about the coast-to-coast journey, visit www.runforthefallen.org
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.