BELMAR, NJ — It may have taken less than one-half hour for the New Jersey Run for the Fallen to pass through Belmar this morning, but in that short distance a timeless tribute was paid to two of some 200 individuals from the state who have died under the American flag during the global war on terrorism.
The military team of runners who began their four-day memorial trek on September 26 in Cape May Point stopped briefly along Ocean Avenue at around 9:30 a.m. — first at North Boulevard where a “hero’s marker” was placed for Army Cpl. Carlos M. Gonzalez of Passaic and then on to Silver Lake at Fifth Avenue, where there was another gathering at the “hero’s marker” for Army Pfc. Campbell McKenna of Neptune.
Gonzalez died on March 16, 2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and McKenna lost his life in a car accident on August 27, 2003 while stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., upon returning from Afghanistan.
At each Belmar location, family and friends of both families and members of the community greeted the caravan of runners and its support crew — and shared in words of remembrance to honor both men.
The contingent continued northward until they reached 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.
Belmar residents Clare and Sharon Hayner first brought local attention to the event because of their participation in past years. Their cousin, Army Col. John McHugh of West Caldwell died of wounds suffered in a suicide car bombing on May 18, 2010 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
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.