Fifteen two-person teams made up of members of all branches of the military, veterans, and first responders will carry a United States flag 136 miles in about 26 hours from the Montauk Lighthouse to Ground Zero in Manhattan on Saturday to remind all in their path of the reason for the Memorial Day holiday.
“As the parent of a fallen marine, every day is Memorial Day,” said Christian Haerter of Sag Harbor, whose son, Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, was killed in Iraq in 2008 at the age of 19.
The Memorial 100 run was started by members of the Third Battalion, 25th Marines, Mr. Haerter explained, to honor the 48 members of the unit who were killed in Iraq in 2005, one of the largest unit sacrifices in the war. The public has been encouraged to meet and greet members of the battalion tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on Bay Street in Sag Harbor.
Participants will also honor first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001, taking turns running on main thoroughfares such as Montauk Highway and backed by vehicular support from town and county governments. Supporting the effort is Mr. Haerter’s foundation, Jordan’s Initiative, and Hope for the Warriors, a national nonprofit organization the mission of which is to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members who sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty.
“There would be no barbecues or beach bashes without these brave souls, and people should honor that fact,” Mr. Haerter told The Star on Monday, adding that he hopes everyone comes out to cheer the runners on and show their patriotism.
“Memorial Day is another hard occasion to get through for me,” JoAnn Lyles, Corporal Haerter’s mother, said Monday. “Like Jordan’s birthday or the anniversary of his death.”
She said that many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, as she did before her son joined the military. “Memorial Day was set aside to specifically honor our fallen military throughout American history, every war and conflict,” she wrote in an e-mail.
“Freedom comes at a heavy price,” Ms. Lyles said. “The family barbecue should be celebrated,” she said, but people might also take the time to go to a Memorial Day parade and make a small donation to the American Legion Auxiliary for a red poppy to wear on a lapel or hat. Another appropriate action, she said, is to fly an American flag at half-staff until noon.
“Visit one of the many cemeteries where small American flags wave beside headstones of heroes resting there,” she said. “Most of all, remember.”
On Saturday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., runners will come from North Haven across the bridge named after Ms. Lyles’s son. It will be lined with veterans holding 48 American flags representing the 46 marines and 2 Navy sailors killed in the battalion during a six-month deployment.
Each flag will have a streamer with a gold star and the name of one of the branches of service. The flags, purchased by Mr. Haerter, will be donated to the Village of Sag Harbor.
One of them will be held in honor of Corporal Haerter, and another for First Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, who grew up in Sag Harbor and on Shelter Island and was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
“I’m going to hold one for Joe,” said James Theinert of Sag Harbor, speaking of his son. “It’s a great idea and mission for these marines,” he said.
Now in its fourth year, the relay was first run from the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. Last year it moved to New York, starting at Orient Point and ending at Ground Zero.
Running it for the second time is Sgt. Thomas Spotteck of Shelter Island, who said of his Marine Corps experience, “I have too many friends with missing limbs, organs, gunshot wounds . . . that have sacrificed the things they love and enjoy for our nation.”
“This is how I represent those whom we left behind,” he said, “this is how I continue to support those who never made it home to their families and friends.”
Michael Roesch, an Iraq war veteran and fitness trainer at Studio 89 in Sag Harbor, participated last year and will again this year to raise money for Hope for the Warriors, in particular, because the group helps military family members as well. “They not only help me, but they teach someone else how to deal with me,” he said.
Runners have online support pages to raise money for the organization at hopeforthewarriors.org/2013Memorial100.
Memorial Day “is a sacred day for Gold Star families,” Chrystyna Kestler, Lieutenant Theinert’s mother, said, referring to families who have lost sons and daughters in war. “The one day we ask that people pause for those who have given their all.”