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A run to remember
Staff Sgt. Jaime Vasquez, 30th Security Forces Squadron, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., runs in the Turbo X race at Surrey Hill, Bracknell, United Kingdom. An avid runner who treks the globe for interesting, physically challenging foot races, he remembers most the race he ran for a fallen comrade. The race provided him a chance for deep personal reflection and an opportunity to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. (Courtesy photo)
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Commentary: A run to remember

Posted 12/19/2011   Updated 12/19/2011 Email story   Print story


12/19/2011 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- by Staff Sgt Jaime Vasquez
30th Security Forces Squadron

In the pursuit of seeking increasing challenges, I eagerly search for extreme races. I've run in the Arctic Circle in Norway, found myself waist deep in mud in Swinley Forest west of London, and tackled the North Face Endurance Challenge.

I never imagined the toughest race I've ever run would be on a smooth, quarter-mile track.

Being a Security Forces Citizen Airman, I have the view that I should constantly improve my toughness. I'm attracted to trails and tracks that dare runners to find who they are. I'm a Defender, after all. I challenge my preparation and training, my desire to keep to a stated goal, and breaking point.

I just transferred to Vandenberg when I noticed a "Run to Remember" poster. I didn't think it'd be a physical challenge, but rather an opportunity to volunteer. On a cold Tuesday morning, I was given a picture of a fallen soldier, Army Private First Class Theron V. Hobbs, 22, of Albany, Ga..

Upon taking my first step on my 20 mile journey, I stared at his picture. I studied his stoic demeanor - imagined him smiling, telling jokes. I wondered if he had brothers and sisters - a wife or girlfriend - children? What were his aspirations? What did he dream about? What was his favorite football team? Could he be a fan of my beloved Jets?

On any given run, I can tell you with certainty how many miles I ran, at what pace, my heart-rate level and at what time I began and ended...all thanks to my GPS watch. This made me wonder. Hobbs was an Army Engineer. Was engineering his passion? Might he engineer the next GPS watch? Maybe he'll make the next watch more ergonomic, or better looking? Maybe he'll market that marvelous watch?

I continued to wonder. But for every question I asked, I already knew the answer. Hobbs was dead...unable to realize his true potential, unable able to strive for his dreams.

The toughest mile I ever ran was the moment I realized that truth. I finally met someone - if only in spirit - who gave his life for somebody else.

As I continued to run, Private Hobbs and I continued to stare at each other. In the midst of my first tears in years, I realized who he died for...and why.

He died for my 59 year old mother - he died for my four older sisters - he died for my eight nieces and nephews - he died for my extended family and friends.

He died for me. 

Hobbs can no longer wake up. He can no longer serve his country. He can no longer strive to improve his life. He no longer has these fabulous opportunities...

...but we do. What a tremendous dishonor it would be if we failed to act on the gift he's given.

Everyone is connected by one single truth - that one day...we, too shall perish. Death is the destination we all share: no one has ever escaped it. Since both our past and our end cannot be altered, the only thing that actually matters is what we do with the present.

During the 2011 Vandenberg AFB's Run To Remember, I ran alongside 20 American heroes. Their dauntless faces...I'll never forget. I'll remember them not just through words or thoughts, but in decisions I make in my life.

And that will be the toughest race I will ever run. I hope it will be yours too.

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