When Lisa Hallett’s husband John, an Army company commander in the 1-17 Stryker Battalion, was killed in Afghanistan three years ago, she instinctively turned to her favorite activity. “Running is how I have always dealt with the challenges of military life,” she said Tuesday, Oct. 23 at the 2012 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the United States Army. “So two days after John died, I met with a friend and we pushed out on a run”
“I needed to run in order to grieve…,” Hallett recalled. “Running was a tangible accomplishment, something I could control in a world that felt out of control. I pounded the pavement in sorrow for all the dreams and love I had lost. I pounded the pavement for the fears I now had for the future.” Hallett faced the prospect of raising three children under three alone.
Soon a small group of spouses in the battalion began to run together each Saturday. “We would gather in a small circle, call out the name of our brigade’s fallen soldiers, and then push out on training runs for an upcoming local marathon,” Hallett said. “The runs were full of joy and life.”
. “With our steps, we supported one another through our grief, our fears, out solitude,” she went on. “And slowly we realized that we were running through the challenges and stress of the deployment and were forming our own support network.”
When the battalion returned from Afghanistan, she said, the spouses realized running together would be a good way for the soldiers to reintegrate. Battalion members joined the runs and then other soldiers in the 5th Brigade did.
Under the leadership of Hallett and fellow runner and military spouse Erin O’Connor, “Wear Blue: Run to Remember” was born, a running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. There are other reasons as well. “We run to heal, to grieve, to cope, to find strength, to give strength…, “Hallett said.
“Despite my loss,” Hallett said, “this is not a widow’s running group.” The group has spread beyond active duty military and their families to veterans, Gold Stars, and community members. They all have put on the blue shirt.
While a service member is overseas, “we have a healthy place for families to come,” Hallett noted. Later, she added, “We help ease the reintegration process. .….It’s a healthy way for families to come back together. And it helps soldiers to engage in healthy coping mechanisms.”
Today Wear Blue is a national nonprofit with chapters on various military bases drawing civilian as well as military members. It’s a support system for military members and their families, while linking them to local Gold Star families and communities.
“It’s a way for our civilians to stand next to those serving and say ‘thank you’ through their actions,”Hallett said. “It’s the medium for a unit to run forward with a Gold Star mom. It’s a way for a soldier to connect with a soldier. “
This Saturday, she said, the blue shirts will be evident at the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K race in Washington.