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Wearing blue, one team runs in memory of war dead

Chantal Anderson
Northwest News Network
Lisa Hallett, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan is one of the founders of Wear Blue: Run To Remember.

Lisa Hallett was cradling her 2-week-old daughter at a military family support meeting when a commander called her out of the room.

"There’s just this panic. And we walk across this big field. We're in one building, we're going to this other building and I'm like tell me John's okay, tell me John's okay."

But he wasn’t.

Hallett’s husband, a West Point graduate, had been killed along with three other soldiers by a roadside bomb while on duty in Afghanistan on Aug. 25, 2009.

Two days after learning her husband wasn't coming home, Hallett called a friend and went for a run. And out of that run, began Wear Blue: Run to Remember – a support group for family and supporters to remember America’s war dead.

Saturday the group will be running in Seattle's Rock 'n' Roll marathon and half-marathon.

Wear Blue

The Wear Blue running club formed during an especially deadly deployment of Washington-based soldiers to Afghanistan. For Hallett and her teammates, running has become not only a way to remember their loved ones, but an outlet for their grief.

The morning of her first run after her husband’s death, Hallett remembered, “it was a sunny morning and it was cruel. The weather was taunting me, this beautiful Pacific Northwest day. Didn't they know my husband had just died?

"But I just need to move and to feel. I needed the chance to feel and I didn't feel until my feet started pounding the pavement."

After that, Hallett and a group of other Army wives started meeting to run on Saturday mornings in DuPont, Wash., just across Interstate 5 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Now, as many as 350 people will attend a running session.

Last year 23 of them ran Seattle's Rock 'n' Roll marathon or half-marathon. This year more than a hundred are running.

Keeping the memory alive

Among them will be Sybil Williamson, the mother of Sgt. Patrick Williamson, who was killed in a bomb blast along with six other 5th Stryker Brigade soldiers and their Afghan interpreter on Oct. 27, 2009.

"I am running in his memory, to honor him and that's why I'm doing it."

Williamson lives in Louisiana, but found Wear Blue online. She'll run the marathon in Seattle with one of her son's close Army buddies.

She says the race is a way to keep at bay one of her biggest fears.

"I personally hate the fact that it's been going on 19 months now," Williamson said. "Because it seems like the longer it goes the more opportunity that Patrick will be forgotten."

For the soldiers too

Even though Wear Blue started out as a group of Army wives, Hallett wants it to be something more: A place for battle-scarred soldiers to come to remember and heal too.

She notes one of the leading causes of death among active duty military is suicide.

"You just want to fix it. And I can't fix it," Hallett said. "Men and women who've lost friends they can't fix it. You can't bring somebody's life back. It's not something we can sew up."

She continued, "But we can live and we can live in a positive way and build a community of people that choose to live in a positive way and to appreciate the sacrifices that were made. You can’t just walk away from this and forget.”

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.