News: Running to Show Support
Story by Spc. Megan Leuck
By Megan Burnham
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – Over 200 residents of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay spent their early Saturday morning participating in the first, potentially annual, inaugural 9.11 Mile Freedom Run and 9.11 kilometer (5.6 mile) Run/Walk.
The Guantanamo Bay Freedom Run was modeled after the Freedom Run founded by Dirk Beveridge, 2008 executive committee member of the We Do Care organization. This is a non-profit organization in Chicago whose mission is to provide the public opportunities to support, and thank, active-duty military personnel, their families, and veterans.
The event was set in motion when Beveridge visited Guantanamo Bay in April for the 75th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. When touring the base, Beveridge was impressed by the work of the Troopers and the overall mission. He asked Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, to consider hosting the run to proceed simultaneously with his race in Barrington, Ill.
The run had special meaning as it gave participants the chance to run simultaneously with family and loved ones who also participated in the Freedom Run in Ill. Army 1st Lt. Sarah Cleveland was participating in the race here while her mom and sister run the race in the states.
"I wish I could be there with them but this is the next best thing," said Cleveland. "I'm actually running with them even though I'm not home, which is a rare opportunity."
The run began at 6 a.m. with the starting line at Windmill beach and the long and hilly route sent base residents all over the Naval Station.
"It was a great run and an outstanding challenge," said Derek Johnson, first male finisher. "It was great to see such support. I hope they do this again next year."
Johnson completed the run in 57:06 with Jason Snyder finishing second at 58:46. Kimberly Higdon was the first female to finish with a time of 1:09 followed by Megan Burnham at 1:16.
When each participant crossed the finish line, Zanetti presented them with a coin that commemorated the event. After participants collected their coin, they made their way to a refreshment area where water, Kool-Aid and fruit were provided.
During the award ceremony, first place male and female finishers were given a $20 Navy Exchange gift card while the second place finishers received a $10 gift certificate. A raffle followed that gave all runners the opportunity to win a two hour ride on the Gitmo Gueen, one of Morale, Welfare and Recreation's charter boats, a dinner certificate for Chateaubriand steak at the base's Bayview Restaurant, as well as a $20 and $10 gift certificate at the NEX. All runners and walkers also received a t-shirt for participating in the event.
The event wrapped up with a beach party and barbeque at Windmill Beach hosted by Jeffrey Shaw, the Liberty program coordinator.