In the midst of two large-scale patriotic events — the culmination of a U.S.-led summer Olympics and the commencement of the Republican National Convention in Tampa — Cyd Deathe is spreading the word about freedom.
She knows firsthand as a mother of a wounded Marine veteran — whose two best friends died in action — that freedom has a price.
To honor them and remember the more than 350 Floridians who lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Deathe and the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association are hosting the 5th Annual Run for the Fallen next weekend at the Winthrop Barn.
The event on Aug. 25-26 features a pasta dinner and candlelight vigil the first evening and a walk/run of 10K, 5K and 1 mile the next morning. A memorial of crosses will be on display all week leading up to the event.
"Never let them be forgotten; that's what it's about," Deathe said. "The sole purpose is to honor the fallen."
To do that, every runner/walker who registers (and there's a record 1,400-plus expected) will receive a bib with the picture, name and city of a fallen hero. More information about that veteran can be found at the adjacent memorial.
"That gives them a connection," Deathe said about the participants. "It's not just a race."
It's also not a fundraiser either. Deathe said if you choose to purchase a $6 shirt, there won't be any advertising on it because it's all about the fallen. Other than $5 to cover the cost of the pasta dinner, any money donated or raised goes directly to expenses for the following year's event.
"They make zero money," said Bryant Martinez, the town artist for Winthrop who is helping out where he can, from cutting the grass on the running trails to installing the crosses and serving the pre-race meal.
"I'm very excited for it."
The Tampa Bay race started on the heels of the national Run for the Fallen event that began as a cross-country memorial run from California to Arlington National Cemetery. A team ran relay style, marking a mile for every solider killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In the first local race, at Veterans Memorial Park, about 230 people participated. Last year, the event grew to 850 at E.G. Simmons Park.
This year Deathe is expecting a record crowd because of the awareness from MacDill Air Force Base, the Marines 4th Amphibious Reserve Center, and VFW and community groups.
Also, 15 to 17 Gold Star Families who have had a relative die in war are expected to take part.