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Vandenberg's 'Run to Remember' draws to a close

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --  Lt. Gen. William Shelton, the commander of the 14th Air Force and Joint Component Command for Space, leads runners from Team Vandenberg during the last mile of "A Run to Remember." A Run to Remember reached the finish line at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 in a ceremony in front of the 14th Air Force and 30th Space Wing headquarters building here. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Lt. Gen. William Shelton, the commander of the 14th Air Force and Joint Component Command for Space, leads runners from Team Vandenberg during the last mile of "A Run to Remember." A Run to Remember reached the finish line at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 in a ceremony in front of the 14th Air Force and 30th Space Wing headquarters building here. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

A Run to Remember.

A Run to Remember.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "A Run to Remember" reached the finish line at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 in a ceremony in front of the 14th Air Force and 30th Space Wing headquarters building here.

During the final portion of the memorial run, volunteers ran throughout a 29 hour period, culminating in a one-mile formation run from the base track to the ceremony location. The final run began 10:45 a.m.

The purpose of A Run to Remember is to honor each servicemember who fell in the line of duty in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The campaign also raised money for wounded warriors through donations to the Combined Federal Campaign. By the end of the event, Team Vandenberg ran more than 6,000 miles and raised almost $10,000.

Lt. Gen. William Shelton, commander of the 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for Space, spoke at the closing ceremony.

"My hope is that the Run to Remember helps us all realize that freedom is certainly not free," General Shelton said. "We can never really repay the debt we owe our fallen and wounded. And although we can't begin to compensate for those losses, we can serve our Nation with the pride, with the honor and with the dignity befitting their contributions to our freedoms."

Groups and individuals from Team Vandenberg and neighboring communities ran Monday through Friday for more than three weeks. This included not only units such as the 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron, but also runners from the local community, such as a group of 10 people from the Santa Maria Veterans Administration Outpatient Services.

Many more lives were touched by A Run to Remember, both military and civilians. For example, an Army major ran for 23 fallen Soldiers whom he served with in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An Airman ran for fallen Soldiers who were part of his brother's platoon in Iraq. On Saturday, a 63-year-old local businessman ran 63 laps and donated $1,500. Monday afternoon Monica Diaz ran in honor of her brother, Joseph Heredia, wearing his fatigues and dog tags; she was joined by General Shelton. And finally, a local family stopped by Vandenberg's main gate just to donate money for the cause and coined Vandenberg "From a Grateful American."

"The support has been overwhelming," said Senior Master Sgt. Cynthia O'Byrne, co-coordinator of A Run to Remember and superintendant of the 614th Air and Space Operations Center. "Most people really get it. You can see when people really understand the intent, the honor and the dignity they put toward this."

That honor and dignity could be seen as Team Vandenberg stood before the headquarters building at the end of the final mile. General Shelton took time to thank Team Vandenberg for their dedication to preserving freedom, just like those servicemembers who were being honored.

"It is our privilege today to continue to serve in the tradition they left us," General Shelton said. "This is still the greatest Nation on the planet, and it is our unique honor to serve our Nation in the world's greatest military."