The mission of this event is to HONOR our nation’s fallen heroes, to HEAL and CONNECT the unseen wounds for both the surviving families and the veterans within the civilian community.
To learn more about what this event means to those surviving family members, we spoke with Seana Arrechaga and Dennis Leftrick, participants and family members of fallen soldiers. Their experience with the Memories of Honor program, and heart-felt stories underscore why this event means so much to so many families.
Seana Arrechaga has been associated with Honor the Fallen for several years after her husband, Army Sergeant First Class Ofren Arrechaga, was killed in action 11 years ago. Amy Cotta, founder and executive director of Memories of Honor, contacted Seana to inform her of the participants who had ran in honor of her late husband that that year’s event.
From then on, Seana and her 14-year-old son Alston attend the Honor the Fallen 5K event to pay tribute to their fallen family member. When asked what this event means to them, Seana expressed, “It’s just knowing that people care, that people still care. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t been through it, but in the beginning, you get a lot of support, obviously, and then life goes on. So, to have events like this and be a part of an organization like this, where they care every day, that is amazing.”
For the past two years, Alston has taken pride in walking the Memorial Mile in honor of his father. The Memorial Mile is a mile-long walk lined with signs honoring fallen heroes. Carrying an American flag, surviving family members wear a running bid with the picture of their lost family member and share memories and stories with others who have experienced loss.
“For me, my personal favorite thing is when our kids start talking, sharing, and becoming friends because they have very unique experiences, and some of them remember their dads, and some of them don’t,” said Arrechaga. “But even on that mile, typically it’s very quiet. But if the kids are talking, nobody says anything. They let them talk because they’re bonding.”
Seana thanks Amy Cotta for her role in honoring her late husband and the tireless effort she puts in each and every day to ensure their family members aren’t forgotten. Seana describes her as committed, passionate, and one person who ensures Seana’s husband’s legacy will always be remembered.
Dennis Leftrick was introduced to Memories of Honor shortly after the death of his son, Army Specialist Benjamin Leftrick, who he lost shortly after his second deployment to combat. Soon after, Dennis was contacted by Memories of Honor where he learned about their mission, Memorial Mile and 5k.
Memories of Honor requested permission to design a poster with his son’s picture and name to display along the course. After the race, the organization presented Dennis with one of the signs honoring his son.
“They have become family to me,” said Leftrick. “Obviously, and I’m honored to be affiliated with them. I’m honored to have my son’s picture seen by so many people, and every time they have an event, I am more than honored to say the names of the other fallen.”
A year after first contact, Dennis signed himself up for his first GORUCK and now participates in both the spring and fall events the organization has each year. “It’s just my way to honor him,” said Dennis. “When I’ve struggled, I can hear him laughing at me saying ‘ruck up old man’. I do that for him. And when I start the march, I always start at the back of the pack because I know when I get to his sign I’m going to stop and visit.”
Dennis mentioned a saying he picked up from Amy Cotta that really brought him into the fold, “people die twice – once when they draw their last breath and once when we quit saying their name.” Dennis uses every opportunity to continue the legacies of these fallen soldiers and ensure their names are spoken. He marches in their honor and uses these events as a way to keep their memories alive.
Time to Honor
By signing up to participate, whether by volunteering of for the 5K, you are making a direct, lifelong, and meaningful impact on the lives of the families we serve.
“Seeing how many people show up – that always amazes me,” Seana says when asked what makes her appreciate this event so much.
Join Dennis, Seana, and the other surviving family members and participants in attendance of this year’s 7th Annual Honor the Fallen 5K | Memorial Mile & GORUCK benefitting Memories of Honor. Dennis and Seana will be marching in honor of their loved ones and the lives of many other fallen soldiers. They encourage you to use this opportunity to raise awareness and, as Dennis reminded us, “keep saying their name.”
Visit the Honor the Fallen 5K website for more information and registration details.