WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — It is more than a race. “You just feel you are doing it for a bigger purpose,” said Nathan Popenhagen of Baxter.
The 11th annual Iowa Remembrance Run honored Iowa soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice while battling in some of America’s more recent and current conflicts overseas. “So easily our fallen service members are forgotten,” said Anna Fuller, director of Iowa Remembers Inc.
Mischa Moyers-Andersen was the first female to finish the 5K at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, but her mind wasn’t on a victory. “It is humbling really,” she said. The significance of the event weighed heavy on Popenhagen, whose wife and stepfather served. “Just a small thing I can do to honor the people that served and honor the people that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Popenhagen said.
Iowa Remembers Inc. is a nonprofit based in Grimes and founded in 2010. Fuller’s husband currently serves in the Iowa National Guard. “When you can compare this to another race, there is just nothing like it,” said Fuller.
Dark clouds and rain provided a fitting backdrop for reflection. “I think it is great to be a part of something to remember Iowa’s fallen service members,” said Popenhagen.
The homestretch of the race may be among the most impactful in the country. Pictures of 127 Iowans line the last 300 yards of the race with their death dates. All of their deaths are service-related to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. “At the end of a race, it is tough to keep pushing to the finish. Then we remember what these men and women sacrificed, and it just makes running a race seem very small,” said Moyers-Andersen.
It is a short race with a long impact. “They’ll leave saying this is the best 5K they’ve ever done. Not based on time but based on the meaning behind it,” said Fuller.