Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Several months ago, my husband reconnected with an old friend from high school, who had served as a Camp David Marine following his graduation, then continued onto college, and eventually become a college professor. Through their communications, we also learned that he had helped to found a non-profit organization called Always Brothers, upon learning of the death of one of his fellow Camp David Marines, Captain Tyler B. Swisher, on October 21, 2005, while he was conducting combat operations in Iraq.
Always Brothers’ primary mission is to raise funds to support the families of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have died in service. All of the proceeds that they raise are invested into education funds for the children of these heroes. Their primary vehicle for doing this is by completing a 100-mile run, not over several days. 100 miles in 24 hours. The team ran their first 100-miles in August 2011, starting at Camp David, and ending at Arlington National Cemetery, the final burial place of their brother, Captain Swisher.
My husband and I were intrigued by the Always Brothers mission, the focused nature of their work, and we wanted to learn more…so we reached out…a few conversations with two of their founding members later, and I had volunteered myself to help photograph their second 100-Mile run, which took place over Memorial Day weekend. This run would honor the fallen heroes of the Lima Company, which has lost in total, 22 Marines and one Navy Corpsman following the company’s 2005 deployment to Iraq. Fifteen children were left behind (not to mention countless mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, cousins, friends).
On Friday, May 25, I boarded a plane for Cincinnati, OH to spend four days in the company of some of the more amazing and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. On the morning of Saturday, May 26, the Always Brothers runners stepped off, in the dim almost light of pre-dawn, and commenced their second 100-mile run. Two runners finished the full 100 miles; many ran 60, 70, 80, 90 mile stretches. Relay teams completed the 100 miles together. They did this to honor and remember their sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, friends, who have fallen. They did this to provide support, care, and love to the survivors of these 23 heroes. Through their work to date, Always Brothers has raised over $65,000 for the children of the Lima Company, 100% of which will be invested into education funds for these 15 kids. And, their work is not yet done. The group is already planning their next 100-miler in 2013, which will again take place over Memorial Day weekend, in Seattle, Washington. I’ve already booked my ticket. And, it may surprise those of you who know me well to learn that I’m also training to run with them.
Brian O’Neil, who finished the full 100-miles on May 27, and who spoke at the Mariemont, Ohio, Memorial Day parade on the day following the run’s completion summarized the weekend best for me. He said, “There is one value that encompasses all, to be a good citizen, to be a good American, to be a great, outstanding Marine. It’s love.” It was this courageous love that I had the privilege of witnessing and capturing over Memorial Day weekend. It was this love that brought together the hundreds of people who participated in the weekend, from the runners, to the support crews, to the families, to the people in the local towns who came out to show their support. Bearing witness to that love was life changing for both my husband and I.
And finally, to the kind, courageous, and amazing people we met over Memorial Day weekend, we send our love and our gratitude.