MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Running through the salty water of the Pacific Ocean with a 30 pound ruck sack, Marines sang cadence while sweat dripped down their faces as they ran the 7th annual Pfc. Ryan Jerabek USMC Memorial Challenge here, Aug. 11.
Thirteen Camp Pendleton Marines showed their support for a fallen Marine by attending the four-mile run, which took place simultaneously with memorial runs in Hobart, Wis. and Camp Delaram, Afghanistan.
“We came to support the fallen Marines that have come before us to remind the families that they may be gone, but they are never forgotten,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Vannoy, an amphibious assault vehicle maintenance Marine with Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion.
Jerabek was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
He was 18 years old in 2004 when he deployed to Iraq and planned to become a history teacher after four years in the Marine Corps. He was killed in a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq on April 6, 2004. Jerabek was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device for his extraordinary heroism.
The annual event was set up by Jerabek’s parents, and the inspiration behind it came from a speech he gave about the military to his senior classmates at Pulaski High School, Pulaski, Wisc.
“I’d like to ask of you to thank those who fought, and are fighting, in the battles to keep this country at the pinnacle of freedom,” Jerabek said.
The race is a non-profit event not only to honor Jerabek, but to honor and thank all veterans and fallen heroes.
Event organizers retraced a four-mile run route Jerabek trained on while he was on the track and field team in high school.
After his death, his parents and event planners used the route to organize the first race in 2006.
The event in Hobart gives civilians a chance to familiarize themselves with the military and become closer with the veterans and service members.
“An event like this puts a face to the Marine Corps,” said 1st Sgt. Joseph Gregory, Headquarters and Support Company 1st Sergeant, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. “It isn’t like Camp Pendleton or Camp Lejeune where you are around the military every day.”
All of the Marines who took part in the race volunteered to come.
“I didn’t force anyone to come out here, it was all volunteer,” added Gregory. “When Marines show up to events like this, they want to be challenged, but the biggest thing is that you’re out here to remember your fallen comrades and build camaraderie.”