Taken from an article in Utica, NY’s Observer Dispatch newspaper


Posted Aug 13, 2009 @ 12:51 AM

Jeannine Olney had to do something.If she’d made different decisions years ago, the Westernville woman would’ve followed her father into the U.S. Air Force or joined the reserves.She didn’t, though, choosing instead to stay on the path of practicality. Her job as a nurse was demanding enough, and taking more time away from her three children wasn’t the right move.

In March 2008, when Army Sgt. Christopher Simpson was killed in his second tour in Iraq the young man’s death “hit home” for Olney. She knew Simpson, who was 23 and a friend of her children. She knew his fiancée, Carol Fries.

Last year, when Hamilton College graduate Jon Bellona organized a nationwide Run for the Fallen to honor his college roommate, Olney found her calling for the “military running through my blood.”

Bellona’s idea, one mile for every service member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, was perfectly matched for Olney, a member of the Roman Runners running club.

“I cry when they play the national anthem,” she said.

Olney organized a local Run for the Fallen at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in memory of Simpson and six other area military members who were killed.

“We never thought it would happen because he had been there and he came home,” Olney said of Simpson. “He was supposed to get out of the Army and he had to go back to Iraq and he didn’t come home. It was something.”

The second run will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 at Griffiss and will honor 11 local military members killed in service. Walkers are welcome, and the athletes can go further than the mile. Registration is at 8 a.m. and the run will start and end at the B-52 site on Perimeter Road near DeLutis Field.

The run/walk will also honor:

  • Army Pfc. Gregory P. Huxley Jr..
  • Army Capt. George Wood.
  • Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Uvanni.
  • Marine Sgt. Elisha R. Parker.
  • Army Cpl. John Sigsbee.
  • Navy Petty Officer First Class Alec Mazur.
  • Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Geary.
  • Marine Cpl. Blaise A. Oleski.
  • Army Cpl. Michael Mayne.
  • Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Lasher.

Olney said the families of at least three military members will be at the run, including the Uvanni family of Rome. Olney went to RFA with Uvanni’s father, Kevin.

Olney, 52, started running when she was 40. She was a serious, competitive runner for a while. She’s scaled back her intensity level and the sport is a bond that runs through the Olney family. Jeannine, her husband, Mark, sons Josh and Austin and daughter Andrea, all ran last month’s Boilermaker for the seventh time.
“We have a spot where we meet with a bunch of friends,” Jeannine said.

About 200 people – runners, walkers and some with dogs and strollers – participated in the Run for the Fallen last year. Olney has no idea how many will show up next week. The run’s informal structure, but serious purpose, does not require its organizer to get timers, trophies or to keep a meticulous to-do list needed for putting together competitive race.

“You do a little running around but it’s nothing compared to a mother losing her child,” Olney said.

Even the national anthem last year was done on-the-spot. The person scheduled to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t show.

“So we all sang it and we’ll probably do that this year,” Olney said.