Somehow a 5K run doesn’t sound tough enough for just about anything involving Army Rangers.
But multiply that distance roughly 55 times and you’ll get the course for this weekend’s Army Ranger “Honor the Fallen” relay from Milton to Astoria, Ore.
The run, clocking in at 168 miles, will take two days for volunteers working to raise the West Coast profile of the Lead the Way Fund, a New York-based nonprofit that writes checks to families of U.S. Special Operators in times of need.
“You never know where the gaps are in the system, and Lead the Way Fund is always there to help to take care of Rangers and their families,” said Capt. Max Ferguson of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
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He’s helping organize the relay in his free time with support from Milton’s Patrick Gass Association of the U.S. Army subchapter of the national association. They wanted to create an event tying together the Ranger battalion’s present-day work in Afghanistan to one of its earliest ancestors, Patrick Gass, who was a colonial Ranger and member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
That’s why the run begins Sunday in Milton, a city linked to the modern-day Ranger battalion through Lewis-McChord’s community connector program, and ends at Fort Clatsop in Astoria, a winter camp for the Lewis and Clark Expedition that Gass likely helped to build.
So far, 58 people have signed up to run legs of the relay. Ranger spouses and families plan to take the daylight shifts before turning the race over to soldiers. Community celebrations are scheduled to take place at both ends of the relay.
“It’s been great to see how many people are volunteering,” said Capt. Juliet Denison of Lewis-McChord’s 7th Infantry Division. Her husband is a 2nd Battalion Ranger currently deployed in Afghanistan.
“We’re getting emails from so many people who want to get involved. They want to support because they know the Rangers and they know what they do,” she said.
Lewis-McChord’s Ranger battalion is in Afghanistan serving on its 16th combat deployment since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began in 2001. The battalion comprises elite soldiers who handle difficult assignments attacking enemy positions to kill or capture insurgent leaders. Two other U.S. Ranger battalions are based in Georgia.
The Lead the Way Fund has its origins in a 2007 attack in Iraq that claimed the life of Sgt. James Regan of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He was a graduate of Duke University who wanted to serve his country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“He could have gone anywhere,” his father, Jim Regan said. “He always wanted to serve his country; after 9/11 it really mattered to him.”
Sgt. Regan died on his fifth combat deployment. Soon after, the soldier’s father began raising money to support other Ranger families coping with wounds, deaths and other emergencies.
The Lead the Way Fund might pay to fly a relative of a wounded soldier to a military hospital if that travel expense is not covered by the Army. Or it might help families of wounded and fallen soldiers by fixing up houses to make them more comfortable.
“The government does a good job stepping in and helping them when they’re beat up, but there are a lot of areas they don’t focus on,” Regan said.
The Lead the Way Fund takes its name from the Ranger creed. It contains six paragraphs Rangers often recite at formal events, including one that hints at expectations for this weekend’s relay:
“My country expects me to move farther, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.”
More about the run
What: The 168-mile “Honor the Fallen” Relay Run.
When: Begins Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Where: Milton Community Park, also known as Triangle Park, located at Milton Way, 15th Avenue and Oak Street.
To contribute to the Lead the Way Fund: Search for “Honor the Fallen” at firstgiving.com.”
To learn more: leadthewayfund.org.