14th Annual Gold Star Families 10K Ruck March honors our fallen heroes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Robert Nichols
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing

As the sun continued to rise into the sky and C-17s began to taxi out of hangars, nearly 200 U.S. service members and civilians arrived to participate in the 14th Annual Gold Star Families 10K Ruck March at Travis AFB, May 18, 2024.

This event serves to honor the Gold Star Family tradition which pays homage to those who gave their lives while defending their nation’s freedom. Funds raised during the event were donated to the Northern California Chapter of the Gold Star Families.

Airmen and civilians battled 24 mph winds with heavy rucksacks, filled with non-perishable food items that were later donated to local food banks.

During the opening ceremony, Kevin Graves, father of U.S. Army Spc. Joseph A. Graves, who lost his life on July 25, 2006, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, spoke about his son’s enlistment into the military and how much the annual ruck march means to him.

“The only reason that we're all here in this room together is because of the price we pay,” said Graves. “We love each other, we support each other, and we are blessed to be supported by groups such as yours. Travis has been a huge support to the Gold Star Families.”

The Gold Star Families were also recognized by Brig. Gen. Derek M. Salmi, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, who shared his deep respect for the Gold Star Families and the sacrifice their loved ones made in the line of duty.

“Your loved ones are gone but not forgotten and you are not forgotten,” said Salmi. "And today, this ruck march is but a small symbol of the fact that we will take a small symbolic part of the burden.”

Several participants were given a Gold Star Family to ruck for, connecting them to the meaning of the event. U.S. Air Force Col. Jeff Krulick, 821st Contingency Response Group commander, and his daughter, Kara, ran in honor of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jonathan Velono, who lost his life on May 9, 2013, in Misawa, Japan.

“It’s just humbling to know that they’re appreciative of us being here and we’re so appreciative of them,” said Krulick.

Master Sgt. Charles W. Galloway III, 21st Airlift Squadron first sergeant, was one of the lead coordinators of the ruck march. The event was organized by the First Sergeant Council through their annual fundraising effort, Operation Warm Heart, which aims to collect financial donations to support initiatives that effect the welfare and morale of Airmen.

“I always wish there were more people who could come out, but we had a good showing and more Gold Star Families where able to make it than in previous years,” said Galloway. “My hope is that people share how much this experience means to them and that participation grows year to year.”

To learn more about Gold Star Family benefits and resources, visit https://www.militaryonesource.mil/casualty-assistance/survivor-support/honoring-gold-star-families/