LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. -- High spirits, laughter and colorful running attire filled the streets as thousands prepared their minds and bodies for the 16th annual Laguna Hills Memorial Day half marathon, 10k and 5k May 26, 2014.
Some people spent Memorial Day at cookouts and parties, but for those who attended the run, honoring those who are currently serving, those who have served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice was the goal of the day.
The event also raised awareness and support from the local community for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, or “Dark Horse Battalion,” with a portion of the event proceeds going to the battalions support committee.
With the race being on Memorial Day, it provided the opportunity for those participating to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“A lot of people don’t really take the time to reflect on the meaning behind Memorial Day,” said Pfc. Tyler Pippin, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, from Sacramento, Calif. “I wanted to do something to show my support on the holiday, so when I heard about the run it seemed like a perfect way to do that. I got the chance to experience a half marathon for the first time, but more importantly I was able to honor my fallen brothers and sisters.”
Runners pulsed with energy as each of them made their way through checkpoints, motivated others and pushed their bodies to the limit. Those on the course maintained their high morale knowing that their efforts were for something larger and more meaningful than themselves.
“I made sure to keep the idea of those that gave up everything in my mind the entire race,” Pippin said. “Being a little winded or thirsty doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifices that others have made for me. I set my goals for the race as I started and made sure to remember why I was there.”
Thousands of participants with different backgrounds, experiences and connections to the military all came out and competed in the race. Some runners wore standard athletic attire while others wore custom clothing supporting specific units and service members.
Sgt. Willie Deel, a Marine with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, ran the half marathon in combat boots a flak jacket and Kevlar to challenge himself and honor the brothers he lost.
Despite the various military affiliations among them, it was evident that everyone in attendance was unified and working toward honoring those who are serving, those who have served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
At the finish line, different displays, workshops, bands and demonstrations were set up and offered people hands-on experience with military equipment as they celebrated the completion of the race.
“Seeing everyone at the half marathon made me very optimistic, said Lance Cpl. James Lesh, a team leader with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and a native of Carsonville, PA. “It made me confident that people love our country and our service members. Seeing everyone working together in such great numbers on a day like Memorial Day is a hard experience to find anywhere. There will always be mourning, but I think that this marathon offered people a unique chance to thank those who have sacrificed for them.”
Every runner that crossed the finish line was greeted with a medal and enthusiastically congratulated. Though individuals participated for many reasons, the great sacrifices made by service members in defense of our country were honored by everyone.