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Once Army, always family: Annual race honors fallen, supports survivors

Soldiers, civilians and family members, clad with gold stars adorned with the names of fallen Soldiers, take part in a previous Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5k. (File photo)

Soldiers, civilians and family members, clad with gold stars adorned with the names of fallen Soldiers, take part in a previous Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5k. (File photo)

Published: May 20, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 20, 2016) -- Fort Rucker will renew its continued support of Gold Star families during the annual Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5K May 21.

“The fifth Survivors and Fallen Heroes 5K and fun run honors and remembers fallen service members,”  Kristi Fink, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation special events coordinator, said. “This event is a tribute to fallen heroes in Alabama and northwest Florida. Runners will be provided a star to write the name or names of fallen heroes they are running for and can be placed on the runners’ shirts. The Gold Star service flag represents sacrifice for the cause of liberty and freedom.”

Race-day registration begins at 6:30 a.m. and the race begins at 8 a.m. at Lake Tholocco’s West Beach. Participants are encouraged to pre-register at either the Fort Rucker or Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center.

The fun run, which is free and open to all children, begins after the 5K race is complete. Each fun run participant will receive a medal.

According to Fink, the event provides an opportunity for the community to show its support for survivors, fallen heroes and Survivor Outreach Services.

“This event shows those SOS family members that their fallen hero has not been forgotten,” she said. “This is our way of letting them know we care about them and the sacrifices they have gone through to keep us safe.”

Elton Norman, SOS financial counselor, echoed Fink’s sentiment.

“While participating in the race is important, it is more important to show up in support of survivors and remind them that their fallen heroes are not forgotten,” he said. “(Events like this) unify the SOS program and survivors and continue to embrace them.  It reassures them that they will be continually linked to the Army family as long as they desire.

“SOS is such an integral thread in the fabric of the Army community because it remains a part of each survivors’ lives and continues to provide enhanced access to all entitled benefits for them, to include assistance with the management of lifelong benefit transition milestones,” he added.

Norman added that support events like this 5K provide support for SOS and the numerous services it offers survivors.

“Our fallen Soldiers have paid the ultimate sacrifice and the Army is committed to their families,” he said. “The SOS program serves as the advocate for the Survivor.  The SOS program provides support, information, and services closest to where the family resides.”

SOS offers support groups, life skills education, supportive counseling, basic financial assistance, investment education and estate planning education to assist surviving family members.

According to Fink, 200-300 participants line the 5K starting line each year to show their support for survivors and fallen heroes.

“It’s great way to be active and show your support to the fallen heroes and their families,” she said. “It’s a great 5K route. It is perfect for beginners and also the avid runners.”

According to Fink, families can plan a day of fun on post by adding Lake Fest to their itinerary.

“Families can start the day with a nice 5K race or 1-mile fun run and finish it up with a relaxing day at the lake,” she said.  “It’s a perfect way to spend some quality family time.”

The 5K begins and ends at Lake Tholocco’s West Beach. Participants can enjoy a quick dip in the water or soak up the sun until Lake Fest kicks off at 11 a.m.

For more information about the 5K or Lake Fest, call 255-1749. For more information about SOS, call 255-9637.

This article was originally published at

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