|A giant U.S. flag suspended between two MidAmerican Energy utility trucks marked the finish line to Sunday's 5th Iowa Remembrance Run. PHOTO: www.redbullrising.com.|
The annual event raises funds for Iowa Remembers, Inc., a Central Iowa non-profit that, in turn, underwrites an annual retreat for survivors of Iowa's fallen service members. The event is traditionally held on Gold Star Mothers Day. The pre-race ceremonies include a reading of more than 100 names of Iowans who have, since 2003, died while in service to their country.
In its fifth year, the event encourages creativity and celebration, as well as thoughtful reverence. Keynote speaker Megan Schoning, for example, memorialized her cousin, Spc. Joshua Knowles, through a narrative poem—one that cursed terrorists and ended with a call for the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday." She and her family members even wore sparkly party tiaras. (With Schoning's permission, her words are presented below in this blog post, in their entirety.)
|The final stretch of the race is lined with flags, along with pictures|
and names of Iowans who have died in service since 2003. PHOTO:
Race times are posted here. Candid photos of the event are available on the organization's Facebook page here.
Other pre-race highlights included:
In other pre-race remarks, Vietnam War-era veteran and retired U.S. Air Force Sgt. Jerry Simmermaker helped remember those Iowans killed or missing from that war. A display commemorating of Iowa's Vietnam-era fallen was placed near the finish line.
|KJJY-FM's Eddie Hatfield and Iowa Remembers, Inc. Executive|
Director Heather Johnston give pre-race instructions from the bed of a
pickup truck. PHOTO: www.redbullrising.com
Before giving race instructions, KJJY 92.5 celebrity race-starter Eddie Hatfield took a selfie with 1,000 race participants.
Here are Megan Schoning's keynote remarks, written in verse, regarding her cousin Joshua Knowles:
I remember the day Josh said he needed to make an important call,
We were in my parents' living room,
Watching the Twin Towers fall.
It wasn't long after that he was deployed away,
He was so proud he could serve his country,
He wouldn't have it any other way.
We stood at the goodbye ceremony,
The sergeant gave his commands.
We gave our hugs and kisses,
A strong family united, holding hands.
He walked up to my daughter,
He grabbed her and held her tight.
He looked into my eyes and reassured me,
Everything was going to be all right.
He said if something did happen,
I needed to be strong.
He said I needed to look after his little sisters,
I told him to prove me wrong.
Days then weeks and months passed by,
He seemed farther away.
He missed so many important things,
I just wanted him to stay.
A few months before he was to arrive home,
We got a phone call in the middle of the night.
I knew Josh wasn't coming home,
He didn't win the fight.
As the 1133rd Transportation Company was waiting to check in on the map,
A mortar went through the cab of his truck,
It landed in his lap.
Josh laid where he had fallen,
The enemy took him down,
He knew his life was ending,
He had lost all sight and sound.
He had a beautiful hometown service,
Hundreds lined the road to pray.
It couldn't have been more special,
for it was Valentine's Day.
A few months after his burial, we found ourselves back at a ceremony where this journey had began.
Except we were welcoming the soldiers home,
They could resume their lives as planned.
Everyone was anxious,
Emotions were running high,
Families finally reunited with their soldiers,
That didn't have to die.
As my family stood in the crowd,
We realized we were not alone,
We had so many soldiers salute our fallen hero,
Because they were unable to bring him home.
Josh was only 24 when he died,
He had so much to give,
He now looks down on us from above,
We were given the opportunity to live.
Ask anyone that knew him,
They would all agree with me,
He was born to serve his country,
And take care of our family.
As I sat and wrote this poem,
My heart was broken in two,
One side filled with all of our memories,
The other side died with you.
A limb has fallen from our family tree,
It devastates us that you had to go,
But you are finally free.
Sometimes, I still feel guilty,
My sacrifice was so small,
For I will only lose a little time,
But you have lost it all.
You will never be forgotten,
My cousin and my friend,
Though death has parted us for now,
We will meet again.
So, when you see a soldier,
Be sure to shake their hand,
Let them know you are grateful,
For giving us this land.
We are all gathered here today,
In honor of those who died,
We are now united as family,
Filled with nothing but pride.
I do not know you're departed loved ones' names,
Or how they may have died,
I don't know all the pain you have endured,
Or how much your family has cried.
I don't know where your loved ones' rest,
Or how many dreams were broken,
But I know each one of us has a bond because of them,
Even if it is unspoken.
I appreciate everyone listening to my story,
We all have one to tell.
As for the terrorists that took our loved ones,
I hope they go to hell.
Before I go ...
My family is amazing,
We have been through so much,
We support each other daily,
We each others' crutch.
In closing, to my cousin Josh:
I think of you every day,
But that is nothing new,
I am especially grateful to be here,
Because it is your birthday, too.
I thank you all for listening,
One last request before I go ...
Can you all help sing "Happy Birthday" to Josh?
He would appreciate it, I know.