A 150-mile memorial run will begin in Elk Grove this weekend, honoring fallen members of the military as it winds its way through the central valley and ends in Dixon.
Along the way, the runners of the California Run for the Fallen will place American flags and biographical cards for each Californian who has died in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I feel great knowing that for at least three days, our team of runners will be able to spread awareness to the state of California about Gold Star Families and to bring honor to their sons and daughters," a U.S. Air Force article quoted retired Master Sgt. Christopher Clay, an organizer, as saying. "It is such an honor and privilege to be in the presence of these families."
According to run organizers, the number of California casualties stands at 722. Three have ties to Fair Oaks. Another has ties to Carmichael. All will be honored Friday, during the first leg of the run starting south of the Elk Grove city limits and ending at Cosumnes Fire Station 71 on Elk Grove Boulevard.
Of the four, three died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, while one died while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. Those soldiers are:
- Army Pfc. Raymond N. Spencer Jr., a 23-year-old Carmichael native, died June 21, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire.
- Army Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt, 36, of Fair Oaks, died July 19, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Army Pfc. Charles A. Williams, a 29-year-old Fair Oaks native, died Feb. 7, 2010 at Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained while supporting combat operations.
- Army Spc. Genaro Acosta, a 26-year-old Fair Oaks native, killed while on patrol Nov. 11, 2003 when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit and detonated two improvised explosive devices in Taji, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Friday's leg of the run will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Lambert and Bruceville roads, and will end around 7:10 p.m. at the fire station at 8760 Elk Grove Blvd.
The final day of the run will end with a 10K run that is open to the public; registration will be available for $30 at noon Sunday at the Sacramento Valley VA National Cemetery in Dixon, 5810 Midway Rd. Those runners will join the California Run for the Fallen run team for the last six mile markers of the journey.
The Run Team will be running at a 10 min/mile during the 10K run. Participants will need to be able to maintain this pace for the entire 6 miles. If a participant cannot maintain this pace for 6 miles they will have the choice to be dropped of at one of the other miles (1-5) in order to complete the run with the Run Team and be present for the closing ceremonies that will start at 4:15 PM.
More information about the event is available at http://www.carunforthefallen.org/.