Every semester, at the start of finals week, our department holds the "Sea to Summit" run at West Point, NY. It starts at our department (Civil and Mechanical Engineering), drops down to the Hudson River (elevation about 28 ft), then runs up through the Academy to the top of the ski hill (elevation just under 1,000 ft). The total route is just over 3 miles, gaining over 900 ft along the way. Here is a snap shot of the route going up:
A few years ago, the run was small - maybe only about 10-15 folks ran it each year. Then someone suggested that we make it an opportunity to stop, reflect, and remember our department graduates who have fallen in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of our graduates have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, some for multiple tours. 17 of our graduates have been killed serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. To remember these young men, the sea to summit run became a run to remember. (of note for those who are not as familiar with the academies, we have been coed since the '70s with female officers and soldiers having an expanding role in the Army ever since. While we have had many female graduates, the 17 grads that we have lost have all been male)
Today was a sunny but cold and windy day. The snow from the weekend was mostly cleared and we are expecting more snow tomorrow, so it was good timing. We met up at noon, ran down to the river and up to the top of the ski hill. We had 40 staff, faculty, students, and guests participate in the run.
It was a fun run, not a race, and the hill presented a significant challenge. My recent running and fitness has served me well. I started towards the back and steadily passed folks the whole way up the route. I try to run that route a few times per month (and have tried it with the kids in the buggy even!). The challenge is to continue to run the whole way.
Once everyone made it to the top, our Superintendent, LTG Caslen, gave a quick pep talk about why we were there; we read the 17 names of the fallen grads from our department; and had a moment of silence to remember them. LTG Caslen reminded us of the scene from Saving Private Ryan where CPT Miller (Tom Hanks) tells Private Ryan with his dying breath, that he needs to earn it, that he needs to live a life worthy of the sacrifices made for him. At the very end of the movie, Ryan returns to the cemetery at Normandy, finds CPT Miller's grave and tells CPT Miller that he hopes that he has lived up to the sacrifice that CPT Miller and his team made.
Then, we lined up for a photo and jogged back down the hill and back to work. Here is a group photo near the summit:
I don't want to get preachy or anything like that. I don't want to argue whether or not the conflicts were justified. I just wanted to share some impressions on a great fitness event that has morphed into an appropriate tribute to some young men who answered when their country called and paid the ultimate sacrifice. May we be worthy of their sacrifice.