My name is Michael Nease. I have never been a runner (until the last few years) and I have never served in the military. Despite my lack of military service, I have always had a deep respect and connection for the armed forces. I was born and raised in Savannah, GA, which has a military base smack dab in the middle of the city, Hunter Army Airfield. I would always see service members around town and see/hear/feel the planes and helicopters flying overhead. When my dad finished Optometry school in 1960, he immediately applied for, and was commissioned as, a 2nd Lt in the Army. He served in Paris and several places stateside and was honorably discharged in 1967 as a Captain. He never really talked about those years, but I knew that he enjoyed them. He met my mom at his last post at Ft. Benning, GA…she was in the Red Cross and he worked at Martin Army Hospital. Despite all of this, I never had the desire to serve (or have someone yell at me and tell me what to do). That was the rebellious child in me.
For most of my life, I never had a desire to run. I even got kicked off my high school senior soccer team for not being able to run a mile in 7:30, even though I had played since the age of five. Fast forward to 2015. I had been divorced for 7 years, gotten fat and lazy, and just generally depressed. I sold my house and moved to an apartment, which I could only afford if I quit smoking, which I had done for twenty-six years. So, I quit smoking, and two months later, I began running for exercise. I sucked at it, but I kept at it, not really making any progress. I’m not sure if I was even really trying to improve. Five years later, in September of 2020, I met and joined a great group of runners/walkers. I immediately started improving in speed and endurance. It was a real blessing in my life.
Now to where everything connects. I joined Team RWB in October of 2020 and met even more amazing folks. A few months later, in May of 2020, the two worlds that I had never been a part of collided. After some running buddies asked, I decided to participate in the Georgia Run for the Fallen, which is a run of approximately 175 miles from Milledgeville to Ft. Benning that takes place in October. Ending at Benning brought everything full circle back to where my parents met.
The miles are run by a group of core runners who alternate running and sharing the miles over the course of three days. At every mile marker along the route, the runners stop and read aloud the name and rank of Georgia’s fallen heroes who have been lost since the War on Terror began in 2000. For May, two non-profits, “Honor and Remember” and “Run for the Fallen” are hosting the 2nd Annual May Memorial Marathon. This is an event where people sign up for 30-minute time slots to run, walk, bike, etc. to honor one of our fallen heroes, with the goal of having “sneakers on the pavement” for every second of every minute during the month.
Of course, I wanted to participate and immediately had the idea to run for every person on the Wall of Warriors on the Fight the War Within website. It has grown beyond that, as I have added heroes requested by friends on Facebook. It has been an honor and a privilege. The month is coming to an end and I have run a total of 55.5 miles spanning 8 hours of running for a total of 16 heroes, 13 of which had taken their own lives, including our own SPC Garrett Briggs. I was joined by Miranda and Essex, as my run family stepped up and made this a very inspirational evening of love and support, not only for Miranda, but for all of us who are in this together and facing our own battles. I was truly honored to be able to do this.
Having not served in the military, I felt this was the least I could do for the people who served, fought, and sacrificed for this great country that I love so much. I’m just lucky enough to have made the connections that I have recently, gifted enough to be able to run, and honored to be able to combine the two into something so meaningful. I now have a reason to run and the miles are no longer just miles. They are inspiration, even when I don’t feel like it. So, do what you can to honor and remember our nation’s heroes, dead or alive, and help keep their memories alive any way that you can. Something that you do which seems so small or insignificant could have the largest impact on someone you don’t even know. That someone has one wish…for their loved one to never be forgotten. That’s why we say their names.