OGUNQUIT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- When John Mixon saw a news story about a national Run for the Fallen back in 2008, he called to see if he could join in the run, never knowing how that phone call would change his life.
Instead of running across the country, Mixon, a Vietnam vet, was asked to create a run in Maine to honor the sacrifices of our military men and women. That initial run traveled 55 miles from Veterans Park in Ogunquit's town center to Portland's Monument Square and was organized in just a couple weeks time.
"Most people don't understand what these men and their families go through for us to have our freedom," explained Mixon. "Even though we didn't know them, we grieve for them and we honor them for the sacrifice that they gave."
When the inaugural run ended, he saw the families of the fallen soldiers standing around in Monument Square and realized most had never met another family dealing with a similar loss, so he added a lobster bake to the event in the second year to give the families a chance to talk.
"There was no where for us to go, no one to talk to. We didn't really know what to do, you know, we were just lost," said Nancy Jesseaume about dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one, whose brother, Sgt. Jeremiah Holmes, was killed in Iraq in 2004.
She attended the first run, and has been moved to help plan and participate each year since.
"I personally have felt that there has been a purpose for me to be there. I've met somebody new every year. Every year I have met somebody that has recently lost somebody and I was able to share my feelings, my experiences, a little bit of my growth and help them," she said. "I feel I've helped them heal a little bit and know that they are not alone."
Mixon says organizing the Run for the Fallen is a full-time commitment, with preparations beginning as soon as the run ends. He says that time commitment is the main reason this year's run will be the final one.
"This may be the last long run from Ogunquit to Portland, but it is not the end of Run for the Fallen," stated Mixon. "Maybe we will surface in another capacity, whether it is a Run For The Fallen 5k, we still plan on keeping our scholarship funding and our funding for our families together."
This year's run begins at 7:45am with a ceremony in Ogunquit's town center and will travel up the coast in honor of 81 men and women with ties to Maine killed in service to their country since 9/11. The run will end at the Ocean Gateway Terminal on Portland's waterfront around 3 in the afternoon with a demonstration by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team and sky divers.