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512th Rescue Squadron members coordinate marathon for fallen comrade

Group of people spread out and running towards green feet painted on the ground.

Airmen and family members of the 512th Rescue Squadron begin a marathon run on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Sept. 19, 2020. Approximately 50 people participated in the run that included a kids’ half-mile, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Oneika Banks)

Four guys running on a path.

Members of the 512th Rescue Squadron run on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Sept. 19, 2020, in honor of a fallen comrade and his passion for running. Approximately 50 people participated in the run that included a kids’ half-mile, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Oneika Banks)

Group photo of 40 people standing between two helicopters.

Members of the 512th Rescue Squadron gather for a marathon run on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Sept. 19, 2020, in honor of a fallen comrade and his passion for running. Approximately 50 people participated in the run that included a kids’ half-mile, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Oneika Banks)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Members of the 58th Special Operations Wing’s 512th Rescue Squadron held a marathon run on Kirtland Air Force Base, Sept. 19, 2020, in honor of a fallen comrade and his passion for running. This year would have been the 24th running of the Air Force Marathon, but this is a first for the 512th RQS.

The event was a tribute to the crewmembers who died in the “Jolly 22” Pavehawk crash in 2014. One of the Airmen who perished was U.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher Stover, a close friend to many in the 512th RQS. Stover was an avid runner and had participated in the Air Force Marathon. Since the Air Force Marathon was canceled due to COVID-19, members of the 512th planned their own event. Approximately 50 people participated in the run that included a kids’ half-mile, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon.

“The helicopter community in the Air Force is a small and very close community. Many knew and served next to those in the 2014 crash,” said Staff Sgt. John Klusek, 512th RQS instructor. “When COVID canceled the official Air Force Marathon, it was really disappointing for our squadron. Then, COVID cases began to wane, and we saw an opportunity to facilitate a run and honor the rescue community.”

Even though he didn’t have a direct connection to the Jolly 22 members, Klusek volunteered and collaborated with many agencies to put the event together.

“I am currently [working with] the UH-1N helicopter, but I understand how important this is for some of our members to honor the Pavehawk community,” said Klusek. “The rescue community is small, works very hard, and takes unavoidable risk to ensure the well-being of others.”

Master Sgt. Michael Brooks, 512th Rescue Squadron superintendent, ran the marathon for personal reasons.

“I’m participating for Capt. Chris “Banjo” Stover. He and I deployed multiple times together, and his passion for running was unmatched, and continued in all environments.”

Brooks also said he welcomed the opportunity to highlight our fallen.

”I hope others simply retain their gratitude for our fellow men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice.”