Relay team runs 212 miles in honor of fallen Airmen
By Airman Seth Haddix, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2019
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- They ran 212 miles filled with pain and fatigue. It put pressure on the relay team, but their drive to honor the fallen Airmen pushed them to succeed.
The relay team, “Unicorn of the Sea,” accepted the challenge of the Crawfish Relay to not only push themselves, but to honor two special tactics Airmen killed in action, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Chapman and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin. The team carried two combat controller coins to symbolize them and handed them off at each checkpoint.
The relay started in New Orleans, Louisiana, and ended in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The runners would take turns running, switching off approximately nine miles at a time.
The team consisted of U.S. Air Force Capts. Kelly Hiser and Andrea “Annie” Reininger, 335th Training Squadron force support officers, Catherine Rogers, U.S. Air Force veteran, Sarah Goff, U.S. Navy veteran, and military spouses Peggy Watson and Amanda Gonzales.
Although the journey was grueling for the team, they took pride in completing the relay that had an everlasting impact on them.
“Running in honor of these sergeants was surreal, and carrying their memories with me will change me forever,” said Hiser. “It gave me a greater appreciation of life.”
Reininger mentioned how important it is to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“People give their lives for our country and to be able to physically and mentally push yourself to honor someone is incredible,” said Reininger.
The team took pride in their success of the race, and how they were brave enough to face it.
“I feel like I accomplished two things from this run,” said Hiser. “I accepted the challenge, completed it and also carried the legacies of these Airmen.”
Reininger strongly believes in challenging the body and this run was a great opportunity to do just that.
“Pushing yourself is important because we come to understand what we can achieve, how physically and mentally strong we are and what we are capable of,” said Reininger. “The military teaches us to reach outside of our comfort zones and boundaries, and this race definitely embodies that.”
Hiser dedicated this run to the Airmen and their families. She wanted to carry their legacies and remember what did they did for this country.
“We want to reinforce to the families of the fallen service members that the memories of them are still alive and we are not going to forget them,” said Hiser. “We care for them as well as their families.”