Last August, about 1,200 runners and walkers – children as well as adults – took part, including 18 marines from across the United States who had been in Ryan’s platoon. It was a five-year reunion for them.
Gold Star families – those who’ve lost somebody in war – have begun coming, too. “They’re able to introduce their loved ones to the group,” Jerabek says.
Proceeds from the event go to two causes Ryan and his family valued: the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial assistance to those of all uniformed services injured in post-9/11 combat and training, and the Pulaski Community School Education Foundation Inc., which makes small grants (typically $500) to local teachers for books and other equipment or special projects. For 2009, the proceeds totaled $7,400.
Parallel runs have been held by about 100 service personnel and civilians – including the US ambassador to Iraq – in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Airmen at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas, ran their own Jerabek Challenge. And about 80 sailors from the San Diego-based USS Green Bay went to the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton to run the race.