By Maj. Corinna Moylan
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 302nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron is going the extra mile to remember service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. Every member is running until one mile has been run for every fallen hero, totaling 6,777 as of January when the run began.
“We are running a mile for each of them as we commemorate them and remember what we stand for,” said 302nd ASTS nurse Maj. Kim Cannella, who organized the run. “I came up with the idea, however this is a joint effort. Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline and control and incorporates one of our core values ‘Service before Self.’”
The individuals who are unable to run are walking to ensure everyone can participate. According to Cannella, it takes every member in the unit, from the Commander to the youngest Airman, to achieve this run’s objective.
“It is not a race so it is not meant to be rushed. I know people run but the miles we log for the fallen are special because the runner is reflecting and remembering our fallen service men and women,” she said. “The selfless run is a time for reflection, to think about why we do what we do when we serve in the military. Maybe we will push ourselves a little more to run a little further each time we get out and run.”
Cannella said the first objective is to remember each of the fallen heroes in recent conflicts and create a piece of art that will serve as a memorial. The second objective is to build unit cohesion, improve morale and improve overall unit fitness.
“Several individuals in the unit have thanked me for starting this project and let me know how they were inspired and excited to be part of this run,” Cannella said. “The core of selfless service is the commitment of each 302nd ASTS member to go a little further, endure a little longer and look a little closer to see how he or she can contribute to the effort.”
The Selfless Run began after the January unit training assembly and is still ongoing. During each UTA members provide the mileage accomplished during the previous month. A bead is then stranded for each mile, representing a fallen hero, and the collection of beads will ultimately be placed in a customized glass case. The case will include the official colors of each service.
Cannella said the idea of the run and creating the memorial case evolved into a joint service effort. For example, a former Air Force flight nurse helped with the idea of the display while a former Navy corpsman is building the case.
“I think it is amazing that an Army Vietnam Veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder is helping with the stranding of the beads. It is proving to be very therapeutic for him to be able to do this,” she said.
At the start of the run only 302nd ASTS members were participating. However, since the run began other units have requested to participate, to include visitors from the Cheyenne Air National Guard, totaling 89 participants. As of the May UTA, 4,359 miles have been accomplished.
This is a very moving way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, said ASTS commander Col. Christopher Ryan.
“Thanks to all who are participating. Remember, each mile you run or walk, think about each individual you run for. I was present when several of these hero’s breathed their last breath and it is for them that I run,” he said.
According to Cannella the idea of the run is beginning to catch on as word gets around.
“One of our NCOs went to school at the start of the run and they are now interested in doing something like this,” she said. “It also has extended to my civilian job. They are excited to do a similar run in the near future.”
Cannella works at for Veterans Affairs in San Diego and said she has the privilege of both taking care of and working alongside many prior service members.
“On days I do not feel like running or don’t think I have the energy to complete a run, all I need to do is remember a severely injured warrior from one of my deployments who said ‘All I want to do is be able to run again,’” she said. “Our fallen service members will never be able to run so if we do not run for ourselves, we can run for those who never will.”