By TIM KELLY
Sea Isle City has a rich heritage in the running community. It is safe to say, however, that even Sea Isle has never seen anything quite like the 11th annual New Jersey Run for the Fallen.
Not a race, but a tribute, the Run for the Fallen is a ceremonial run that is at once both literally and symbolically moving.
Run participants are active duty members of the United States military who are honoring their brothers and sisters in arms who made the supreme sacrifice.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, Run for the Fallen, now in its 11th year, will pass through Sea Isle after leaving its starting point in Cape May en route to Holmdel, Monmouth County. A ceremony will take place in Holmdel at the site of the Gold Star Family Monument at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Along the way, the runners will stop at designated points where an individual fallen military member will be recognized.
In this aspect of the event, the spectators are participants as well. They are encouraged to come out and not only give encouragement to the runners, but also to gather at the “Hero Markers” – placed one per mile along the course – and learn about the deceased service member.
The participants and accompanying caravan will stop at each marker to honor the fallen warrior and his or her family with a brief individual ceremony.
“This event is a way of making sure the family members and loved ones have at least a small bit of closure,” said event Director Mike Simpson. “We are making sure these men and women who gave everything are honored and remembered.”
Five stops will be made along Landis Avenue in Sea Isle during the run. One stop will be after a short turn off Landis to JFK Boulevard and the Promenade, which has two Hero Markers there to commemorate the best friends Specialists Adam D. Froehlich and Anthony J. Dixon.
Those markers are expected to be reached by 2:26 p.m.
The other Hero Marker locations in Sea Isle, the honorees they recognize and estimated arrival times of runners and caravan are as follows:
- 89th and Landis: P01 David M. Tapper, expected 1:55 p.m.
- 64th and Landis: 2nd Lt. Richard Torres, expected 2:11 p.m.
- 46th and Landis: Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz, expected 2:18 p.m.
- 22nd and Landis: A1C Jarred Crowley, expected 2:36 p.m.
“Sea Isle City has always been a big part of the run,” Simpson said. “It’s an important stretch of the event. The officials of the town and of course the folks who come out are very supportive.”
In Sea Isle, a portion of 46th Street is named in honor of Michael Crescenz, a summer resident who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War.
Crescenz, an Army corporal, was killed in 1968 while charging up a hill to attack an enemy stronghold. He was credited with knocking out three enemy machine gun bunkers during a fierce battle, saving the lives of many American soldiers.
A miniature statue of Crescenz is on display in the lobby of Sea Isle’s City Hall. Sea Isle played a major role in raising money for a lifelike bronze statue of Crescenz at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, Crescenz’s hometown.
In all, there will be 279 fallen servicemen and women honored, at least 250 of whom lived in or had ties to New Jersey, Simpson said.
About two dozen runners take turns running between the markers. The total distance of the event is 196 miles, covered over four days, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
“Most of the runners are repeat participants who come back every year,” said Simpson. “They welcome the opportunity to represent those who came before them. They look forward to it each year. They’re honoring those who’ve given their lives to help protect our freedom and way of life.”
For more information about the event and bios of each of the servicemen and women to be honored, please visit www.njrunforthefallen.org.