Sasha Cantrell—running in her third DAV 5K to honor her late husband Michael Bradford, an Army veteran killed in Afghanistan in 2013—enjoys being a part of any event recognizing and supporting veterans.
“I have been a part of the DAV 5K since its inaugural run in 2013. I love to see the love that comes with being at this event,” Cantrell said. “Everyone is here because they believe in showing support to our military in some way or another. And I think anytime you bring awareness of the continued struggles our military men and women face, you are being effective.”
The DAV 5K—now in its third year—has expanded its walk, run, roll and motorcycle ride to three cities, bringing together thousands of participants and veteran supporters. Cincinnati and San Diego jump-started the 5K series Nov. 7, with the newest host city, Atlanta, following suit on Nov. 14.
“I am extremely proud of our three host cities,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “By adding San Diego last year and by expanding to Atlanta this year, it proves not only the success of the original host city, Cincinnati, but shows how willing people are throughout this nation to support its veterans, and we aim to continue to engage the communities we serve while bringing veterans’ issues to the forefront.”
With nearly 40 percent of the 6,400 participants across the three cities being former military themselves, it was an opportunity to come together with fellow veterans and see the outpouring of community support.
“Being in the atmosphere of the event was a truly special feeling for me,” said Dustin Lehmann, an Army veteran from both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. “First and foremost, I was blown away by the sheer number of people present at the race. I had six family members here, and they were just as taken with the event as I was. It is touching, humbling and invigorating all at the same time.
“Most races support the runners involved, but there was something a little different about this one,” he added. “Being one of the black shirt wearers (worn by veterans), I felt that I developed an instant bond with those around me during the run. Good work, DAV.”
“For many veterans, they miss the camaraderie of being a part of their unit, and I am no different,” said former Marine and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Robert Sherman. “There is a bond that you cannot put into words, and being in the moment of the race and the celebration of the day is a way for many to reconnect with who they were as an active-duty service member.”
“It’s important for veterans to know that they are not alone,” said National Commander Moses A. McIntosh Jr. “That’s why there are so many people at these events in these three cities. They’re here to stand up for veterans and help our ill and injured heroes regain a sense of normalcy in their communities.”
In addition to the three host cities stateside, deployed service members in Afghanistan took part in the event with a DAV 5K “shadow run.” The roughly 80 registered runners in Kabul dedicated their run to a fellow veteran or activeduty service member.
“I ran in honor of two groups,” said Cmdr. Mike Brown, a Navy reservist who took part in the shadow run. “First, the World War II veterans who touched me deeply through the Honor Flight program, as I was privileged to meet over 300 of these veterans over the course of a half-dozen visits to Washington National Airport to greet them when they arrived. Second are my 80-plus Reserve shipmates who have deployed forward since 2008 from five different Reserve units in which I served as either executive officer or commanding officer.
“I am humbled by them and honored to share my current experience with them,” he added.
No matter where or why they took part in this year’s DAV 5K events, for participants like Marine veteran Brandon Marchioni, the event left a lasting impression.
“This was simply a jaw-dropping experience for me,” said Marchioni, a veteran of the Iraq War. “I was blown away about being here. All throughout the course, I kept thinking how inspiring of an event this is, and then you get to the finish and there’s guys on motorcycles cheering for you.
“As a veteran myself, I appreciate all of the hard work that DAV does to assist veterans and their families,” Marchioni added. “The DAV 5K is a great event for all of us to come together to show support of veterans and service members and celebrate all that they do for our country.”