BELMAR, NJ — As part of this week’s 11th annual New Jersey Run for the Fallen, Clare and Sharon Hayner will travel to Bayville on Saturday where a team of military runners will stop to honor their cousin, Army Col. John McHugh. The West Caldwell resident died of wounds suffered in a suicide car bombing on May 18, 2010 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Then they’ll be back home in Belmar on Sunday morning, September 29, when the team making the four-day memorial trek from Cape May Point to the Holmdel reaches Ocean Avenue, where they will pay tribute to two more service members who lost their lives during America’s global war on terrorism.
This year, the run is a tribute to the more than 200 of New Jersey’s fallen "who have fought, and those who have fallen under the American flag." A “hero’s marker” has been placed at a prominent position at every mile along the journey, where the team will stop as a sign of remembrance.
The Hayner sisters are rallying support throughout the community in hopes that others will join them when the run team arrives in Belmar on Sunday, which is expected to be at about 9:30 a.m. at Ocean Avenue and North Boulevard. There will be a moment of remembrance for Army Cpl. Carlos M. Gonzalez of Passaic, who died on March 16, 2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The team will then proceed to Ocean Avenue to Silver Lake at Fifth Avenue, where they will assemble in front of the American flag for Army Pfc. Campbell McKenna of Neptune, who died in a car accident on August 27, 2003 while stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., upon returning from Afghanistan.
The team and its contingent will continue northward until they reach their final destination of the more than 190-mile run — the New Jersey Gold Star Family Monument, located on the grounds of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial at the PNC Arts Center.
The Hayners are relative newcomers to the run, which is held the last Thursday through Sunday every September by a volunteer organization of military runners and support crew to pay tribute to their fallen comrades and Gold Star families.
“My sister and I got involved three years ago when we attended the hero’s marker stop for our cousin, Col. John McHugh,” said Clare Hayner. “After attending John's on a Saturday, we looked to see where they were stopping in Belmar on Sunday. Much to our surprise, the hero’s marker on Ocean Avenue and North Boulevard was for the son of a co-worker of mine, Carlos Gonzales.”
Last year, the sisters added a Friday stop in Absecon to honor Marine Pfc. Donald Brown, the son of another co-worker, who died on October 25, 2006 in Operation Iraqi Freedom — in addition to their visits the next two days to McHugh in Bayville and Gonzales in Belmar.
“We plan on doing the same this year and every year forward. Hopefully we will see a lot of people in Belmar at the two stops,” Clare Hayner said. “It is a run you will never forget,”
The New Jersey Run for the Fallen’s mission is “to run one mile for each New Jersey service member who have died during the global war on terror. Each mile of sweat and pain and each flag saluted, is to pay homage to one service member’s life and their family.”
For more information, visit its website or its Facebook page for the latest news on the run.
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