Definition of SUPPORT
1: to hold up or serve as a foundation or prop for
Support. It seems like such a simple word but yet there is so much weight behind it. We all need support, no matter what may be going on in our lives, and when you lose someone close to you that support is what helps get you through. For me, some friends stepped up right away and have continued to be there for us throughout this journey, some support came from out of nowhere and seemed to pop up exactly when I needed it, and some continuing support has come from people and places I never would have imagined! People have provided support in so many different ways. They have cooked meals, sent cards and flowers, listened to me, cried with me, helped with up-keep on my house, provided me company when I needed it, and today, they ran with me on TAPS’ Run and Remember team.
I have had the amazing opportunity to run two races with this TAPS team. I ran a full marathon in Fargo, ND back in May and today I ran the half marathon in Anchorage’s Big Wildlife Runs, where I live. Both races were extremely memorable moments in my life but yet they were very different experiences too.
In Fargo I had a number of friends and family come from all over the country to run on my team, named Hillbilly’s Heroes after my husband, Jeff “Hillbilly” Hill. It meant so much having them there for my first full marathon! After they were done with their own races they scattered throughout the full marathon course and cheered me on during my race. I saw red “Hillbilly’s Heroes” shirts all over the place and it was a wonderful sight!! They pushed me forward with words of encouragement, gave me my energy packets when I needed them, walked with me when I wanted some company, and one friend even ran a short distance, in her flip-flops nonetheless, to help keep me going! They were all at the finish line when I came across and I was immediately surrounded with this incredible group of family and friends, lots of hugs, and best of all, a ton of love! Their support is what got me through that race and it meant the world to have them all there.
A few months ago I started looking for people to join our team for the Big Wildlife Runs and as we gathered this morning before the races I realized we ended up with a group of 27 runners! Wow! As I look now at the list of teammates I am realizing what a wide variety of people ran in support of TAPS, me, and ultimately Jeff! There were friends that I work with, friends from Jeff’s squadron, friends from our local community, and even the children of some of these friends! What’s most amazing to me is that a number of these friends didn’t even know Jeff, but they were still there to support us and run in his memory as well as the memory of the crewmembers that died along side him.
Since I ran the longer race in Fargo I wasn’t able to watch my teammates cross the finish line, but today was a different story. I was able to watch a number of them come through the last chute, including the two marathon relay teams that we had. While the last relay team was finishing, it all hit me and I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. All four of them finished the race together and as I watched them run toward the finish line I saw the four pictures pinned to their backs…pictures of Jeff. I looked around at the other teammates I was standing with, thought about the other teammates I saw along the course, and was overwhelmed with the realization that they were all there to support us, remember Jeff, and help TAPS. Seeing everyone wearing his picture meant so much to me and it filled my heart with an overwhelming sense of pride and love!
The race today was just a simple run for so many people but for me it was so much more! It was running for a cause. It was running for my hero. It was realizing that my support is all over the place and I truly couldn’t do any of this without these amazing people. I just hope that they all know how much I love and appreciate not only them as people, but also their presence in my life!!
One of my biggest fears is that Jeff will be forgotten and I know deep down that won’t truly happen, but my friends today reminded me that even though they didn’t get the chance to know firsthand what an amazing man he was, they still will never forget.
Thank you everyone for running and remembering not only my hero, but all of the heroes we have lost along the way. Run and Remember! That’s what it’s all about!