There are many ways to mark Memorial Day. This year, the American Legion Post 29 based out of Marietta did it with a memorial 5K and festival, all to raise support and funds for military charities.
“(Memorial Day) is one of our most sacred and solemn national holidays,” said Brig Gen. Randall Simmons, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard before the 5K. “Notice I did not say sad. In fact, it should be a celebration — a celebration of life — and of such people that laid down their lives so that we could be here today in freedom, in safety and security, that they existed. They’re truly a special group of people in our population who paid the ultimate price.”
Randall said part of the proceeds of the days event go toward the Georgia National Guard Family Support Foundation, which benefits military families in need.
Other charities supported by the event are the Shepherd’s Men SHARE Military Initiative at the Shepherd Spinal Clinic in Atlanta and the Service Office of the American Legion Post 29. Post 29 has donated $240,000 over the past four years to the charities.
After the race, Squaregoers were also treated to displays of military vehicles and other patriotic events.
One unique part of the celebration was a live simulcast with troops deployed in Jalalabad Airfield in Afghanistan. Folks gathered in front of a screen in front of the Strand to wave and exchange greetings with groups of service members gathered outside the airbase.
One pair of young brothers, Ethan and Colin Jackels of Powder Springs, got the chance to talk briefly with their dad, Lt. Col. Scott Jackels, who is serving in Afghanistan.
The boys said they video chat with their dad from their home, but the cool part is that the troops, including Lt. Col. Jackels, would be starting their own 5K at the same time halfway around the world.
“This is awesome that we get to race with our dad,” Colin said.
“There’s no words to describe it,” said Ethan.
“Besides awesome,” Colin added.
After the race began, some of the folks in Afghanistan stuck around to chat with the people back home. Because of the time difference, the guys over there were about to head to dinner after a long day’s work.
“Can you see that sweat?” Laughed Command Sergeant Major Jason York, of Dallas, as he pointed to his forehead on the screen. “I ain’t even running! Woo, it’s hot!”
Jalalabad’s highs reached into the upper 90s Saturday, but York said the men were proud to be a part of the event back home.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be halfway in the world and still participate with America’s finest back home and participate with our hometown heroes, the American Legion Post 29, Georgia National Guard,” he said. “It’s just an honor to be on the team.”