Fort Gordon's Tribute to the Fallen honors those who died in the Middle East

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

The Tribute to the Fallen honors those who passed away in the Middle East during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (Source: WRDW)

FORT GORDON, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Military members from several branches have been running at Fort Gordon non-stop for the past 10 days.

They came together for the 15th annual Tribute to the Fallen.

"This run means a lot to me,” Maj. Michael Lehmer with the United States Marine Corps said. “When I first did it about a year ago, I really took the opportunity to reflect and realize how many Marines and Sailors were lost during OIF and OEF.”

Lehmer is talking about Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Each runner carries 21 pounds of ammo and wears three dog tags.

“I take a knee, say a little prayer, and then hang the dog tags,” Lehmer said.

Each tag represents one of more than 1,500 Marines and sailors who died in the Middle East.

“If you reflect back on all the wars we fought there would to be a huge pile of dog tags there, sad to say,” Navy Capt. Bill Kramer said.

Kramer has served in the Navy for 37 years. It was his fourth tribute run.

“It’s taking yourself and being uncomfortable to help you remember those that made the sacrifice,” Kramer said.

It’s a run Kramer hopes will inspire his new sailors.

"Take their legacy and fuel you to do your job in the future," Kramer said.

The long days and nights, the many miles, and the blazing heat did not stop them.

"I was hurting, but it doesn't compare to the pain and the hurt that they felt when they were overseas," PFC Brandon Jimenez said.

Jimenez got the honor of running the last lap.

"It hurts I couldn't be there for them," Jimenez said. "That's what hurts me the most, but inspiration that one day I can be that Marine that goes and destroys the enemy -- anyone who tries to hurt the United States."

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