When I moved to the Fort Bragg area almost a year ago, I remember learning about the “Run, Honor, Remember 5K” and the boot display at Hedrick Stadium.
The display encompasses about 7,000 combat boots of fallen service members from across all branches of military who were killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001. It also includes boots that were submitted by family members whose Soldier died while serving in active-duty service.
I reached out to Charlotte Watson, Fort Bragg Survivor Outreach Services program manager, to get more insight.
“The Run, Honor, Remember is important as we head towards Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifice of our service members and their Families,” she said.
“Seeing Hedrick field lined with over 7,000 boots is powerful! Each boot represents someone's son, daughter, husband, wife mother, father, brother, sister, battle buddy and/or friend. Our military is a volunteer military — these fallen heroes knew the risks of joining the service to protect and defend our great nation. Showing a tribute to those individuals and their Families is why the Run, Honor, Remember is so important. It shows our military survivors that they are never forgotten.”
With nearly 7,000 boots along with an attached identification card, how did the SOS set up the boot display in conjunction with the 5k? Volunteers.
This is what I found out: SOS in conjunction with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation team up. SOS takes the lead on organizing the display during FMWR’s monthly 5k. Volunteers and an 82nd Airborne Division unit helps SOS set up and take down the boot display on the field.
Because of the thousands of boots that will line Hedrick field, SOS begins the setup a day early. In this case, they begin setting up at 9 a.m. on Friday. The following day, the community gathers on Longstreet Road in preparation for the opening comments at 7:45 a.m. followed by the run at 8 a.m. The display remains throughout the weekend and is taken down Monday. Again, volunteers help SOS gather the boots and other remaining items for storage. Historically, SOS receives anywhere from 20 to 50 volunteers.
“Never forget our brave men and women who have laid down their lives for our country,” Watson said. “My message to surviving families is their service member gave the ultimate sacrifice, and we hope the display of boots is a tribute to that sacrifice not only honoring our fallen but honoring our surviving families.”
SOS is still in need of volunteers for both the set up and take down of the boot display. If you’d like to volunteer, contact SOS at 396-0384.