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Annual 9/11, POW-MIA memorial gains 24-hour vigil

The 6th Annual 9/11 POW-MIA Memorial 5K/2K Run/Ruck/Walk will be held from 6:15-8:30 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Tinker Air Force Base softball field, this year with the addition of a 24-hour POW-MIA Vigil Run/Walk from 6 a.m. Sept. 12 to 6 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Tinker AFB track.

More than 2,000 people are expected to participate in this year’s event, the theme of which is “Never Forgotten.” The addition of the vigil was decided as a way to strengthen that theme and the commitment to the idea of remembering those who have gone missing in action, according to committee member Wakita Oliver, a program manager in Education and Civilian Training.

“The purpose of the event is to honor not only the ones we have lost on 9/11, but to also honor the survivors as well as our POW and MIA,” Oliver said “To have the vigil the day before is very symbolic because of the way in which MIA-POW flag will be carried around the track for 24 hours leading up to the run itself.”

For the vigil, the entire day will be broken into 20-minute shifts in which one volunteer will recite the names of all those listed as POW and MIA while a second volunteer will either walk or run along the track while holding the POW-MIA flag.

“This is especially symbolic because this is not a spectator event, this is something that truly involves volunteers in memorializing those who are missing or fallen,” Oliver said. “It’s not just happening while people are gathered there to observe, it goes on regardless as a different level of a memorial that expresses more reverence.”

At the conclusion of the vigil on Sept. 13, the flag will then be carried from the track to the softball field for the opening ceremony of the annual run, which will feature opening comments on the significance of both of these events from Col. Paul Filcek, 72nd Air Base Wing commander.

“Every member of the Tinker community is invited to participate and support this free event,” Oliver said. “We will also give away 500 9/11 flags and 500 POW-MIA flags with names etched on the handles to help reaffirm the meaning of the theme, ‘Never Forgotten.’  This is an event you do not want to miss.”

This year also marks the first time the run has deviated from its typical route across Tinker AFB, a change that Oliver said was a result of the construction projects and closures occurring across the installation.

The two committees that have worked on both the vigil and the run have worked closely with the Air Force Sergeants Association, with more than 25 primary committee members and even more volunteers having worked to ensure the events serve as a true memorial for all lost.

“This is different for us to host a two-day event, but the whole purpose is to express more reverence for the survivors and those we’ve lost and host a memorial truly worthy of them,” Oliver said.

The last day to sign up for the run is Sept. 12 and for more information on either event, contact Oliver at 739-7539.