Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
This year’s Memorial Day will look a little different for the “wear blue: run to remember” community amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that won’t stop them from running “for the fallen; for the fighting; for families.”
The executive director and co-founder of “wear blue: run to remember,” Lisa Hallett, has taken the organization’s annual Memorial Day activities virtual in an effort to continue her organization’s mission, even through the COVID-19 crisis.
“The unique circumstances of 2020 find us isolated from most facets of group life,” Hallett told Fox News. “Changes to the way we attend school, work and our place of worship have challenged most of us, but during this time, it has never been more important for us to meaningfully come together.”
"The atypical circumstances of 2020 will not prevent us from achieving our mission on Memorial Day – to honor our nation’s fallen by learning their stories, speaking their names and honoring their legacies," the organization's website states. "We invite you, your families and friends to join us, virtually, in honoring our fallen service members and their families’ sacrifice."
“wear blue” is a nonprofit running community honoring the service and sacrifice of the American military. The community “unites and supports military and their families, veterans, Gold Star families, and civilians through active remembrance and meaningful relationships.” The organization works to act as a support network, serve as a living memorial and bridge the gap between military and civilian communities.
“wear blue is virtual for Memorial Day,” Hallett told Fox News. "We have intentionally partnered with Team Red White and Blue and other like minded organizations to build a robust, and united effort to honor the fallen and support the military during this time of separation.”
Hallett told Fox News that “wear blue” and Team RWB are “calling on our nation to come together in shared steps outside of our back doors.”
“Our goal is 50,000 runners committed to running or walking in honor of the fallen,” Hallett said, noting that the organization has also partnered with Amazon, VISA and more to make the event happen. “We recognize that now, more than ever, we are stronger together.”
Hallett told Fox News that “Amazon and its 25,000 military veterans joined 'wear blue' in creating a virtual training program as part of a stay healthy-stay connected campaign that we developed together.”
“Amazon employees have been sharing their weekly training and preparing to run a 5k this Memorial Day,” Hallett told Fox News. “We are excited to partner with them, and grateful for their generous support of our programming.”
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed to Fox News the company's involvement.
Hallett added that VISA also had a military and veteran network and “is joining us in running this Memorial Day.”
This Memorial Day, Hallett invited runners, walkers and supporters to download the “Motigo” app, which will feature messages from families of the fallen, and fellow service members, sharing stories about their loved ones and what Memorial Day means to them.
Participation is at no cost, Hallett told Fox News, saying that runners, walkers and supporters “simply commit a meaningful number of miles to run or walk or move on Memorial Day.”
“On Memorial Day, we ask that our community shares their honored hero with others on their social media channels, with the challenge, for the examples and motivation of these heroes to live in how we live,” Hallett said.
Meanwhile, in 2017, “wear blue” launched a program dedicated to Gold Star children called the “wear blue Gold Star Youth Mentorship Program,” which pairs active duty military with children of fallen service members.
This year, Gold Star children, with the support of the USAA Foundation, have been training virtually to run a Memorial Day 5K.
“Each week, we join a Zoom call, and discuss training tips and setting and achieving smart goals,” Hallett told Fox News. “They are running for purposeful steps on Memorial Day in honor of their fallen parents.”
Hallett explained that on Memorial Day, runners will be invited to join a “Zoom Circle of Remembrance,” and then will begin to walk or run in honor of their fallen hero.
“I am proud of 'wear blue: run to remember' and Team RWB, as we join our communities in a nationwide effort to honor and remember our fallen military heroes on this Memorial Day,” Hallett told Fox News. “On Monday, May 25, we will speak the names and share the stories of the men and women who volunteered to serve their countries and gave the last full measure in doing so. And in this act, we are reminded of our potential and our call to rise.”
“wear blue” originally was founded following the redeployment of 5-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a unit that, while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, sustained a significant amount of combat losses and casualties. During that deployment, a small group of 5-2 wives and battalion support staff met weekly to run, seeking to create a support network for one another. When the brigade returned, Hallett, and co-founder, Erin O’Connor, turned the small group into a nationwide vision.
Hallett told Fox News that the program has had a very personal impact on her family. Her husband, Capt. John Hallett, was killed on Aug. 25, 2009, just three weeks after the birth of their third child, Heidi, and just six weeks after his deployment with 5th Stryker Brigade to Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar. Capt. Hallett was killed when his unit encountered an improvised explosive device.
“It’s been over 10 years since my husband Capt. John Hallett was killed in combat. Our three children are growing up … they are anxious to hear the stories of the young adult they are striving to become — stories of John that often feel too far away,” Hallett explained.
“In military service, there is not always the space to tell the stories of our fallen friends and leaders,” she continued. “As community members, there are not always words strong enough to say thank you, or I am sorry for your loss. But on Memorial Day, our steps become the words and the stories.”
Hallett added that as her children grow up “it’s bittersweet to see John on their faces and in their actions, as well as their own desires to know the man they barely met.”
“I’m grateful for this day that we share with our country our pride,” she said. “And they share with us their strength and remembrance.”
“When I look at the streets across America, and I witness a nation moving in red, white and blue, I know that you remember. I know that you care, and I know that John's legacy and the legacies of all our fallen endure in how we live,” Hallett said. “We must now, more than ever, hold steady to the charge to live a life worthy of such sacrifices.”
o join this no-cost virtual walk or run in honor of our nation's fallen military, please visit https://www.wearblueruntoremember.org/.