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Flags4Fallen represents at Fort4Fitness Fall Festival

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Richard Clark ran the Fort4Fitness half marathon in 2012.  The night before the race, he went to Walmart and bought a full-size American flag to carry with him during the race.  "I was touched by all these stories from Iraq and Afghanistan," Richard said.  As he ran through the tunnel into Parkview Field, he unfurled the flag he was carrying. "As I was running around the field I'm thinking, 'this could be something.' But I really wasn't sure, and so it took several races to figure out what I was supposed to do with this." Out of that experience came Flags4Fallen, a group of runners who carry full-size American flags in honor of fallen Americans.

Clark said, "We've carried flags for military, police, fire-fighters, two of the causalities from the Deep Water Horizon.   We carried for two murdered girls in Delphi and we carried for four sisters who were killed in their home by arson.  So it's fallen Americans.  It's evolved to any American that's died too soon."  They have a Facebook page where runners will ask to be assigned a fallen American to run for and where families can ask that their lost loved one be honored.

Richard hopes that this story and the runners at Fort4Fitness will remind you of these fallen service-members. "And with all the stuff that comes across my Facebook page that has a million hits or ten million hits, I think it's sad there's all these stories out there. And I don't think generally the average person probably takes 5 minutes to read up on who these kids are that die so early putting their lives on the line for all of us...I'd like to do what I can to make that change and raise that awareness.  And if somebody sees a news story about one of our runners carrying a flag and they go over to their computer and they click on that story and they read it then we accomplished our mission."

Richard stressed you don't have to run long distances to be involved.  "We started out half marathons, full marathons because I thought you're going through this grueling thing.  But then 5K runners started coming along.  So if it's a one mile fun walk and you wanna carry a flag that will happen.  Because the family on the other end I don't think really cares what distance that is.  What they care is that you're remembering their son or daughter or spouse and you're going to carry that flag and get it to them.  They really don't care what distance it is."  Even if you don't run at all, you can still help Flags4Fallen on their mission. Richard asks that you follow the Facebook page and take a few minutes to read about the person or people being honored at a race "because if we continually read about them, then it's true their spirit doesn't die."

Occasionally there is a military presence at the finish line to help Richard fold the flag he carried and present it to the family if they are there. That takes several months to arrange, and Richard did not have time to coordinate that for Fort4Fitness.  If you are currently or have been in the military and want to be at the finish line to help fold these flags and present them to any family members who are there, email hannah.strong@wane.com. "You know the whole thing is built on faith.  We reach out to families.  They have faith.  We reach out to race organizations.  They have faith. We reach out to media.  They have faith," said Clark.

Stephanie McKenzie will see her late husband honored at this year's Fort4Fitness Fall Festival.  Her husband, Michael, served for nearly 20 years in the United States Marine Corp, United States Army, and Indiana National Guard.  His death was a result of service-related post traumatic stress disorder.

She now wants to make sure her husband and others like him are not forgotten.  Flags4Fallen runner and founding member Richard Clark is running in Michael's honor.  If you're interested in running a race with a flag for a fallen American, click here to go to the Flags4Fallen Facebook page.  Send them a private message, and they will get back to you.


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