RFR: Run for Roger

In loving memory of Roger Deeds, 10/1/81 – 11/16/05

I can’t believe that yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the most heinous attack on American soil in recent history.  On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my zoology class watching the whole thing unfold; my adolescent brain not being able to reconcile the images on TV and the fact that everyone’s lives had just been instantly transformed.  I still can’t watch any footage from 9/11 without tears streaming down my face but I find comfort remembering the days after the attack when our country became totally unified.

If there is one singular event that I can pinpoint as the reason my brother became a Marine, it would be September 11, 2001.  Anybody that knew Roger would tell you that he was born with the military gene; he just kind of oozed it (even during his rebellious teenage years).  I’m pretty sure scientists haven’t discovered the “born to be in the military” gene, but whatever it is, Roger had it.  Kidding aside, my dad was career military so I guess you can say it kind of rubbed off on Roger.  Roger loved history and you could always find him reading a military novel or biography.  He was in JROTC in high school and it came as no surprise when he joined the military.

Boot camp graduation pictures of my Dad (L) and my brother (R).

 As you know from reading my blog, in 6 1/2 short weeks I’ll be running my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon.  When non-runners (and even some runners) find out I’m training for a marathon they automatically want to know why I would put myself through something so intense.  “Why would you do that? You must be crazy.”  My answer to their question why leaves little room for argument in whether or not a sane person would run 26.2 miles.  So what’s the answer? I’m running in memory of my brother.  Then there’s the typical awkward silence.

Roger (L) pictured with Cpl. Jeffry Rogers (R) who was also killed on 11/16/05.

Memorial Day 2006. The first time I fully understood what the holiday was about.

Even though this is my first marathon, I really don’t look at it as my own.  This one is totally for Roger. Now that training is getting harder, the race getting closer, I’m constantly reminding myself of the reason I’m running it.  When I want to give up during a particularly hard run, I think about everything that Roger and his fellow brothers-in-arms endured to secure my freedom.  How they would never give up when the going gets tough.

On November 16, 2005, Roger, my big brother, my only sibling, was killed in action in Iraq on.  Almost 7 years later I remember every detail about the night I found out he was killed.  It’s strange how some things are seared in your memory; half the time I can’t even tell you what I wore yesterday.  Roger was killed 10 weeks after Hurricane Katrina had devestated the city that I lived in.  I was at work when I found out; Jody came to get me saying that my mom who lives in Minnesota had called and left a message asking he take me someplace private and then call her.  I knew at that moment someone had died.  I naively hoped it wasn’t Roger, but my hope was misplaced.   I remember Mom telling me in a calm voice and then asking if I was ok, her priorities focused on her living child and not the one she had just lost.  I responded by asking her to put me on the phone with the casualty officer.  He confirmed what Mom had told me, Roger had been killed by enemy fire.

Taken at Roger’s funeral.

Now, I don’t really know a lot of the details, which may be for the best, but from what I know is Roger and his fellow Marines were searching for terrorists during Operation Steel Curtain.  They were tasked with the job of searching and clearing farm houses and were met with enemy resistance.  The story that my family has pieced together is that Roger was shot while attempting to save another Marine.  Obviously, I wasn’t there to verify the story but it’s definitely something he would do.   He was selfless like that. His Bronze Star Citation states that he “launched a recovery effort”…”to secure and render aid to embattled Marines”.  After everything was all said and done, Roger and 7 others had paid that ultimate price for our freedom; countless other Marines still carry the scars (both physical and emotional) from that day.

Makeshift memorial in Iraq of the fallen members of Fox Company 2/1.

I miss him terribly.  I miss hearing his voice, I miss being harassed by him, I miss play fighting with him.  I miss that he didn’t get to see his beautiful children  grow up or help me tease our mom and dad about turning grey.

Running the Marine Corps Marathon is part of my journey, part of the healing process.  I know that the 26.2 miles of the marathon in no way compares to the hell that Roger went through (and the hell our soldiers still go through) but for me it’s my way of paying tribute to his sacrifice.  It’s a way for me to ensure that he’s not forgotten; that none of the sacrifices our soldiers make are forgotten.  And some small (ok, very big) part of me also feels that running this race would make him proud of me.  Now, I know it’s silly to think a dead person can feel pride but, hey, I’m a silly girl sometimes.  So my mantra for this marathon is “RFR” – run for Roger.  I know that this will be an emotional run for me but I’m so excited to toe up to the start line and listen for the canon to fire.  To read more about growing up with my brother, check out my My Brother, My Hero.

Question of the day: Have you ever run an event in memory of someone? I would love to hear about it!

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37 thoughts on “RFR: Run for Roger

  1. i wish that i could jump through the computer and give you a big hug. i dont know where you find your strength after such an event in your life. there are no words to say what i would like to say, but thank you for sharing this post. thank you for honestly speaking the word about how important it is to support our military. you truly are a warrior, and i admire your strength so much! you will do amazing during your race, adn you should be SO proud of yourself. i know that your brother is ❤ spa love!

    • Thanks Jenna for taking the time to read this; I can practically feel the {virtual} hug! I think that running this marathon will be one of my proudest moments but nothing will ever compare to the pride I have for Roger and all of our military.

  2. Thank you for your giving the gift of presenting your reason for running. I really enjoy reading about your journey. I thank God for people like your brother that protect my freedom. Good luck and many prayers for your family during this difficult time.

    • I’m reminded every single day what a fantastic country we live in! 🙂 One where men and women courageously give of themselves so I (we) can enjoy a better life. Thank you so much for reading this rather long post.

  3. Oh Gina! I wish we lived closer so we could talk/hug/cry/laugh about all things Roger. I know he wasn’t my brother but there were times when he treated me like a little sister (usually when we were annoying him and Andy). I don’t know what it’s like to lose a brother but I did lose a cousin and it still hurts. I think about you and him and I often find tears in my eyes. You are going to be amazing on October 28th. You are a crazy awesome rock star and your Minnesota family loves you so much! ♥

    • Aw, I wish I could give you hugs right back, Bridget! We were all so close growing up that I’m sure his death impacted you (and our whole family) to the same extent. It would be completely selfish of me to assume other’s pain is less; our hearts ache just the same. And thanks for thinking I’m a “crazy awesome rock star” I think you just gave me a big head – lol!

  4. Beautiful post, Gina.. 😦 I’m sure I won’t be the only reader saying that they teared up reading it.. You are so brave and inspiring having been through everything that you have. Your brother would be so proud of you!

  5. Great post, Gina–it made me tearing up, too. I love that you’re running in memory of your brother; it’s very touching, and I’m sure you’re making him proud. When I take the plunge and decide to run a marathon, it will definitely be about something bigger than me, like running in memory of someone or running for a charity.

  6. That is a beautiful post, one that truly touched my heart. My husband is retired, but served for 25 years. We lived through deployments which was hard, but I can’t even imagine what it would of been like had he never returned. Your brother is a hero and I am sure he is proud of you.

    I am running in my first half marathon this coming October. I will be running in memory of my best friends daughter who lost her battle with Leukemia at age 6. She would of been 16 the weekend of our race. We are running to celebrate her birthday and her short life. It should prove to be an exciting, challenging and emotional weekend, but I am looking forward to every minute.

    I look forward to following you as you continue to train and race.

    • Nicole, I got chill bumps reading about how you’re running your first half marathon in memory of your best friend’s daughter. How tragic that her life ended so soon but what a wonderful tribute you are going to give her on her 16th birthday! {Hugs} to you and your best friend during the upcoming weeks, I can’t wait to read your posts about the 1/2. Also, thank you so much for loaning your husband to our country for 25 years; it’s because of men like him and wife’s like you that I get to enjoy my freedom!

  7. What a wonderful way to honor your brother’s life. Sending you a huge hug..I know he’s proud of you and will be with you as you continue to train and run the race 🙂

  8. You are completely amazing. I understand what you mean about remembering every part of that day you found out. My brother was in a car accident when I was 10 that killed his best friend and left him a quadraplegic. Certainly it doesn’t compare what you and your family went through, but it will still be a day that I distinctly remember forever.

    I wish you all the best in your run, I know your brother will be there cheering you on and helping you mile by mile ❤

    • Suzi, thank you so much for sharing about your brother! I think what you went through when you were child with his accident is just a traumatic as losing a brother. Your whole life changed that day in a way that can never be changed back. {hugs} from one sister to another!

  9. Wow Gina I’m so sorry. What a horrible loss but what a hero your brother is. Roger will be with you every step of that 26.2. What a beautiful way to honor him. I’ll be sweating pink at MCM on 10/28 too. I hope I get to meet you.

  10. You are such a strong powerful amazing woman and I am inspired by you every day. I am actually tearing up as I write this. My father and grandfather were both Marines who just like your brother volunteered to serve active duty overseas (Vietnam & WWII/Korea). We were lucky enough that they both returned back to us, but I know that many of my father’s friends were not so lucky, his best buddy dieing in his arms. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to live with this for the rest of your life. let alone losing a family member. I thank my lucky stars that my little brother didn’t qualify for the Marines or he would have enlisted in 2003. (As honored as I would have been for him to serve our country I am a bit selfish.)
    I love that instead of being consumed by grief you have found a beautiful way to honor your brother. I am absolutely sure he would be so amazed of you and the strong, inspiring woman you have become.
    Semper Fi Roger!

    • Alright, Abby, you don’t play fair with your comments! You totally had me tearing up reading about your Dad and Grandpa. I can’t imagine the emotional scars your grandfather carries around with him, having your best friends die in your arms is horribly traumatic. I actually feel worse for the guys that survived the battle because they saw and know exactly what happened. I’m fortunate enough just to know my brother died a hero. I totally understand about being thankful your brother didn’t enlist and it’s ok to be selfish, that’s what we sisters are good at. 🙂 (Well that and also tormenting our brothers nonstop!) Thank you so much for your kind words – even if they did make me cry…..

  11. Hello Jenna, I guess you can say we are related, My husband is Rober G Deed from Kansas, He is your dad’s cousin. I think it is wonderful for what you are doing for your brother and that is quite a run. I guess I would be doing the same if I wasn’t to old and out of shape. My husband died 22 months ago but he remains with me at all times. I helped charter a Marine Corps League Aux in Joplin, MO, I work with the VFW and voleenteer at the Veterans Home in Mt Veron, MO. I do what I can to keep the memory for the Marines alive because of Bob. Altho he didn’t died during a terrible war he did die from complications of. I will try to follow your quest

    • Hi Pat! So nice to meet you; it’s a small world, isn’t it? I’m so sorry to hear about your husband passing, I’m sure you miss him tremendously every day. Thank you so much for volunteering at the Veteran’s Home; I know you’re doing an excellent job with the Marines and I’m sure Bob is very proud of you. Thank you again for stopping by and introducing yourself!

  12. Hi, I’m Orrilla. My family and your dad’s family were close friends in Iowa. Good for you for running this marathon in tribute for your brother. Your article is very touching and encouraging. Good luck with the marathon!

    • Hi Orrilla, it’s nice to “meet” you! My dad talks very fondly of his childhood in Iowa. He even took my brother and I when we were kids to Bill and Loretta’s (Modie and Wampie) farm. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement!

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