FORT GORDON, Ga. (NNS) -- Marines and Sailors based at Fort Gordon, Georgia began the eighth annual Tribute to the Fallen run Nov. 8.
The run will continue for 10 days and honors the more than 1,480 Marines and Navy hospital corpsmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. These men and women came from 49 states, many U.S. territories, and comprise many different races and religions.
The tribute began Tuesday with the NIOC Georgia and USMC Co. D color guards joining Fort Gordon's Patriot Guard Riders in freezing winds to honor service members who have given their lives in more than a decade of conflict. The stories and likenesses of these service members are shown on a large outdoor projector while their tribute laps are being run. Despite warnings of the cold, wet nights and stormy midday runs ahead, NIOC Georgia runners were motivated by the opening remarks and determined to press on.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who contributed to this event for the last five years, looked on as the first runner started on his way. Erik Jensen Jr., a chapter leader for the Patriot Guard Riders said, "I participate in the tribute because after I retired [from the Army], I felt lost and wanted to give back to my fallen brothers."
Struggling to feel the same brotherhood experienced during his military service, Jensen has dedicated countless hours to honor those lives lost in service.
Participants in the Tribute Run complete a three-mile lap around Fort Gordon's Barton Field alone or with a group in formation, passing 21 rounds of ammunition to a relieving runner to ensure someone is running 24-hours a day, more than 1,400 miles in total. Approximately 100 Marines and Sailors participated in the 240-hour event, some experiencing extreme solitude during the dark hours of the night. The rounds carried by each runner were fired Nov. 8 at the closing ceremony.
Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Joseph Obleton ran with nearly all of the NIOC Georgia groups by the end of this year's tribute, even with those running between dusk and dawn. Eight years ago, during his first year as a chief, Obleton had a Sailor who lost her husband, a Marine, in the Iraq War. This loss greatly affected him and those working alongside him. Obleton is medically unable to deploy, but he says, "Running in the Tribute is the least I can do to show my support for the fallen and their families."
His commitment is not deterred by harsh weather or cold, dark nights on Barton Field.
The last lap and closing ceremony is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 8, and will include all branches of service from Fort Gordon as a multi-service tribute.
For more news from Navy Information Operations Command Georgia, visit www.navy.mil/local/niocg/.