(a veteran and first responder looking at the NY skyline)
The United States was built because heroes were willing to sacrifice everything for the good of the next generation.
As the date of 9/11 came and went three weeks ago, we, as a nation, mourned the victims who lost their lives that day. However, just as it is important to remember those lives that were lost, it is also important to honor first responders and heroes who freely paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those who laid down their lives in exchange for another's.
(a memorial outside of a firehouse)
Over the weekend of 9/11, we sent a team of ten from Flags of Valor to run the 9/11 Promise Run. The run is a 240-mile relay, from the Pentagon Memorial to Ground Zero.
(Team Flags of Valor)
As a veteran owned and operated company, coming home is a major theme among our employees. All of our combat veteran craftsmen served overseas, so we wanted a way to thank those who serve in our backyards and neighborhoods. We come back to our families, our friends, and our communities. These sacred places are protected by our first responders, and that is why we ran in the 9/11 Promise Run.
Brian Steorts, the owner of FOV, re-enlisted after the events of 9/11 and still vividly remembers where he was that day and the feelings he had. “On 9/11 I was in a macroeconomics class at the University of Alabama,” he said, “And just like most that day I was enraged. I knew I needed to return to military service because I had more work to do.”
On the first day of the run, we were met with torrential downpours. Congregating at 0430 at the Pentagon Memorial for last instructions we were off at 0500. Spending the night at Singerly Fire Department, in Elkton, MD, our team rested and connected with the other runners and met the firefighters.
For Dave Kent, our Vice President of Operations, these nights brought much significance to the run, “The nightly stories told by firefighters and fellow veterans left a lasting impression of the sacrifice paid on that day and all the days following.”
Julie Graham, our Customer Service Manager, was one of the ten crammed into the RV that served as our headquarters. “It was the most welcoming, entertaining, heartfelt, concerned, humble group of people to be with for this occasion,” she said. “The honesty was there from all angles, things were stripped down, and we were just ten people doing our job as Americans to remember all of those that were lost and since then had sacrificed.”
Mike Taylor, our Vice President, said he ran to honor those who had fallen, to thank those who serve, and to gain a personal understanding of the ethos of firefighters and first responders. For Dave, the experience was already very personal. “I joined the Marine Corps following the events of 9/11, experiencing first-hand the ravages of war and the loss of two dear friends in Afghanistan,” he said, “I ran in their memories letting their families know they are not forgotten."
(running with the Flag of Honor)
As the second day dawned, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, and we pressed on through Maryland to the Trenton Fire Department in New Jersey. We donated flags from our new collection to the 9/11 Promise Run that were presented to the firehouses every night.
For Mike, the most significant takeaway from the run was seeing the selfless sacrifice and courage of the first responders and firefighters. “For most of us, the idea to run into the towers was simply incomprehensible,” he said, “These men and women are unbelievable humble heroes. I didn’t understand this until meeting them in person and hearing their stories.”
(at Trenton Fire Department in NJ)
On the day of the 11th, and the following day as our team visited firehouses and police departments the emotions were particularly strong. “I’m in awe of the men and women who serve like this," Mike said. For Julie, the run was a bittersweet mixture of emotions, “As much as we are to be sad and angry on 9/11 this run gave a purpose to the day, and it was okay to laugh and cry and love with the fellow runners.”
(presenting a firehouse with a flag)
The 9/11 Promise Run was about mourning the victims of terror that were lost that day, but it was also about honoring those who are prepared to make that ultimate sacrifice every day.
“This isn’t a race, it’s a run to remember,” said Brian. “There are no winners; we finished as a team because we all run toward the same goal.”
(Brian [left] and friend Adam [right] at the 9/11 Memorial)
Our team was honored to participate in the 9/11 Promise Run, and we will never forget.
(at the 9/11 Memorial)
In the next few weeks, we will be releasing a video from the 9/11 Promise Run. Follow us on social media, or subscribe to our email newsletter, to get updates.