16th Ordnance Battalion Soldiers collect photos of the Fallen

Soldiers from 16th Ordnance Battalion collect photos of fallen service members to place along the 5k route Sept. 11, for this weekend's Virtual Run for the Fallen around Fort Lee. 

Run for the Fallen did not go as planned in May due to COVID-19, and this weekend’s virtual event will be without the thousands at Williams Stadium who traditionally gather to honor service members who died on active duty.

Run for the Fallen is known for the images displayed along the five kilometer running route, its sizable crowds – last year’s event drew 7,000 participants – and its ambiance of pride, reverence and graciousness.

Organizers were not sure if a virtual run could generate the same interest as the live, robust event. But, it looks as if this year’s version may have some advantages.

“At first, I was nervous, wondering if people would participate, but I have found (the response) overwhelming,” said Angela Bellamy, Survivor Outreach Services coordinator at Army Community Service.

Overwhelming because those who could not be live participants for the traditional occasion now have the opportunity to partake anywhere in the world, said Bellamy.

“Because we are having it virtually, I’ve got families who moved to Hawaii, families in Washington state, who used to be here, saying to me, ‘We can run (where they are located) and still be a part of the Fort Lee event.”

The first virtual Run for the Fallen is scheduled to air live on Facebook beginning at 10 a.m., Saturday. Virtual participants are invited to download runner’s bibs, run or walk the Fort Lee 5K course, or whatever course they choose, between 9 a.m., Saturday, and 7 p.m., Sunday, then share memories and photos of their participation.

Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, is scheduled to address viewers.  Robert Fitzgerald is set to be the guest speaker. A retired Soldier, Fitzgerald also is a Gold Star father who lost his Marine son during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Viewers can tune into https://www.facebook.com/events/326475065166801/ for the broadcast.

When it was postponed earlier this year, the loss of some features created uncertainty. Much of that subsided when many would-be participants seemed encouraged to participate.

“I’m surprised because I’m still receiving calls,” said Bellamy. “People are still wanting to run, and I’ve heard from some families – it’s hard for them to get to Fort Lee for the big run – who think a virtual run should be part of the regular event. It amazes me that the community finds this run so important. It’s a great feeling to know our community is so supportive and still wants to participate virtually.”

Despite this year’s virtual event, more than 900 images of the nation’s fallen will be featured along the 5K route. The photos will be available for viewing Friday afternoon.

In addition to the photos, the American Flag Memorial Wall, an exhibit sponsored by Veterans and Athletes United, will be displayed at the ACS Memory Garden beginning Friday at 11 a.m. The flag wall is a decorated with dog tags from those who served during the War on Terrorism.   

 Run for the Fallen marks its 10th anniversary this weekend. Bellamy and Christine Murphy – who comprise Survivor Outreach Services -- are the principal organizers for the event along with other Army Community Service and Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff.

SOS offers long-term case management for families that have lost loves ones while serving on active duty.

For more information, call 804-734-6445.