JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — More than 400 service members and civilians participated in the Valentine's Day 5K run, Feb. 14, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The run, sponsored by the 63rd Ordnance Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), offered service members a way to celebrate the holiday despite separation from loved ones, said 1st Lt. Shawn Green a platoon leader with the 63rd Ord. Co.
Green, a Graham, Wash., native, said it is important to remember family and loved ones, and look forward to seeing them after deployment. His valentine is his wife of 11 years, Crystal Green.
"[Valentine's Day] is a day my wife and I usually go out to dinner and have fun," he said.
Being away from family is always difficult, said Spc. Anthony Zavala, an ammunition specialist with the 63rd Ord. Co. This is Zavala's second deployment, but his first while having his own family. His valentine is his one year old daughter, Julia Zavala.
A good relationship with coworkers and battle buddies makes the deployment, and the separation, less stressful, he said.
"It helps through all the tough times," said Zavala, a New York native. "Even though it's sad to be away from our families, we're doing good things for our country and we'll be back with them soon."
The Army has a tradition of recognizing holidays with runs and competitive events geared toward camaraderie and morale, he said.
An event as simple as a run allows Soldiers to relax and enjoy the bonds between coworkers in the Army family, said Capt. Sharron Williams, the officer in charge of the brigade human resource branch with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 15th Sust. Bde., 13th ESC.
William's valentine is her husband of 15 years, Capt. Derrick Williams.
"Not being with families but being able to be with friends was a good opportunity to build morale," said Williams, a Los Angeles native. "It allows us to enjoy a deployment and be able to tell our children, family and friends that we were able to get out and celebrate [Valentine's Day] as well."