Event supports fallen soldiers

Runners and walkers set their own pace on Saturday morning while rounding the Mansion Park track. They weren’t there to win a race or set a record. They were there in support of soldiers who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“This is a way for the community to show they won’t forget those who have lost their loved ones,” organizer Karen Baum said Saturday. “And it’s a good place to get a hug.”

For the fourth year, Baum of Hollidaysburg and Lori Miles of Roaring Spring, with help from family and friends, organized Run for the Fallen, an event replicated throughout as many as 20 states, according to an event website.

Baum, whose brother-in-law, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Baum of Hollidaysburg, died in 2004 while serving, said Run for the Fallen event is a good place to reminisce and to support others.

Gary Ingham of Altoona smiled as he watched a woman photograph an American flag attached to the fencing around the track. His son, Staff Sgt. Matthew Ingham, died in 2010 while serving, and platoon members signed the flag in Matthew’s memory.

“They sent that flag from Afghanistan,” the father said.

This year’s event included representatives of Camp Liberty Veterans Association, a local organization offering services specifically for veterans, a keynote speech by Dennis M. Butts, a decorated veteran and advocate for service members and patriotic music sung by the The Flight 93 Memorial Chorus.

It also included a tent where Linda Cassarly of Altoona asked patrons to sign Christmas cards to be mailed to soldiers later this year, in front of two quilts bearing the names of Pennsylvania solders who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cassarly said she made the quilts while her son, Peter, was deployed from February 2012 to February 2013. He now lives in Pittsburgh, preparing to attend graduate school, she said, but remains active in the Army Reserve.

“With an event like this, my feeling is that we want them all to be remembered, no matter whether they’re no longer here or whether they’re still serving,” Cassarly said.

Yvonne Gentry, taking a rest between laps on the track, said this was the first year she attended Run for the Fallen, having come with her daughter, at the urging of her daughter’s friend.

“It’s nice being here,” the Hollidaysburg woman said. “I think we’re going to be looking to come back every year.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.