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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Freedom

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying this amazing three day weekend.  I just got back from a quick trip to Colorado where I was spoiled with awesome, humidity free running weather with temps ranging from 40 in the morning to 70 in the afternoon.  It’s such a switch coming back to Mississippi where you’re immediately assaulted by the hot temps and humidity.

Ah, lovely Colorado. How I miss your gorgeous scenery and perfect temps already! (Side note…I have no idea why the picture is date stamped 1995…..)

While I know we all love a good three day weekend (no matter what the reason) it’s especially important to recognize the reason behind this particular extended weekend.  A bit of history first.  Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, while not a federal holiday until 1971, was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, as a way to honor the lives that had been lost during the Civil War (both Union and Confederate were honored).   Hundreds of thousands have sacrificed their lives protecting America in countless wars.

Biloxi National Cemetery. Final resting place to approximately 17,000 of America’s finest men and women. This was taken Memorial Day 2011.

Fast forward 138 years to Memorial Day 2006.  This was the first Memorial Day that I fully realized that the three day weekend I had always enjoyed was more than barbeques and picnics; that it was a gift given to us, purchased with the blood of heroic men and women.  Four of those men are pictured below.  On November 16, 2005, they made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue to enjoy our barbeques and picnics.   Thank you to all who have given their lives to keep me (us) free and all of the men and women currently serving to keep us free!!

As you enjoy today, please take a moment to reflect on the reason why we’re able to enjoy it in the first place.  Then grab your spouse, kiddos, friends (heck even a stranger. Ok, just kidding on the stranger bit.) and head to the beach or a barbeque; it’s a beautiful day to enjoy your freedom!