Fallen Soldiers 5K Returns to Western

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Fallen Soldiers 5K Returns to Western

Sarah Ritter

Sarah Ritter

Sarah Ritter

Kayla Trail, assistant news editor

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 Western Illinois University’s annual Fallen Soldiers 5k was held over the weekend and with a record 595 registered runners. According to a release from University Relations, the nearly 600 runners made this the biggest race in McDonough County.

 The 5k started with a short ceremony where Student Member to the Board of Trustees and member of the ROTC program, Michael Quigley addressed the audience.

 “The Fallen Soldier’s Scholarship Fund was established in 2012 to honor two WIU alumni who were killing in the line of duty, Capt. Derek Dobogai and Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin,” said Quigley. “Money raised from the 5k Run/Walk is directed toward the WIU Fallen Soldiers Scholarship Fund, which supports veterans and service members currently enrolled at Western.”

 Quigley presented the lying of the wreaths, one to honor Baldwin and Dobogai, and the other to recognize Western veterans as a whole.

 “This wreath honors all (of) the 167 Western students who served during World War I, including eight who perished during that war,” Quigley said. “It also honors the 572 Western faculty and students serving during World War II including three dozen women and the 53 individuals who lost their lives during those wars. It also honors the countless students, faculty and staff who have served honorably since our two world wars, many of whom are no longer with us.”

 1993 graduate Robert Baldwin was killed in 2010 when his Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter crashed during combat in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. Dobogai, a 2003 Western graduate, was killed in a separate incident when his Blackhawk helicopter crashed in 2007 in northern Iraq.

 The route was lined with 207 American flags blowing in the breeze, guiding the runners past important landmarks such the Veteran’s House and Hanson Field. The race started and ended at Hanson field because of the significance of Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson’s service in World War I before his coaching career at Western.

 The race kicked off with 5k starter Lukas Smith, a senior who is pursuing a bachelor’s of science in geology and three minors: mathematics, chemistry and physics. Smith served in the United States Army who served active duty with deployments to Iraq, and received the Fallen Soldiers Scholarship for the 2015 spring semester.

 More than $18,000 was raised for the Fallen Soldier’s Scholarship Fund over the weekend. Since the event’s inception in 2011, more than $64,000 has been raised for the scholarship.

 Criminal Justice major Phillip Saunders is a Marine Corps veteran and chose to attend Western due to the military-friendly atmosphere.

 “One of the reasons why I chose to go to school at Western Illinois is because of the military-friendly background,” Saunders said. “I was a little indecisive where I wanted to come to school after I was discharged from the Marine Corps, but it warms my heart to know that Western cares about its veterans and how they get along in school.”

 Saunders also said that after finishing his Bachelor’s degree, he will probably pursue his Master’s in hopes of getting a more secure future.

 “Right now, it seems like the right thing to do, the more school you have under your belt, the better off you’ll be for job opportunities down the line,” Saunders said. “I hope to work for a government agency such as the FBI, DEA or maybe even the CIA. I know I’ll need all the education I can get.”

2010 law enforcement and justice administration alumnus, Thomas Morgan is enlisted in the National Guard and takes pride in Western’s dedication to showing veterans appreciation.

“Some people just don’t understand what being a reservist and being a full time college student all at the same time really means.” Morgan said. “I chose Western Illinois because it has one of the best Law Enforcement and Justice Administration programs in the State. It’s nice to know that there are events like the Fallen Soldiers 5K to show us that the school really does care about its veteran students. I would choose Western every time.”

Morgan is still a member of the National Guard, and is now an artillery officer and is also an Illinois State Police Officer as a member of district 17 in Lasalle, Illinois.

“I had some of the best years of my life down here in Macomb,” Morgan said. “If you asked me where I would be five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I’ll keep coming back for the Fallen Soldiers 5k for as long as I can.”

Francisco Bello, a 2003 marketing alumnus, said that he came to Western because of the atmosphere towards military veterans.

“When I first got out of the Navy, I never knew what was next for me, so I decided to start college,” Bello said. “I got my associate from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois, and then I started looking at four year schools. I guess what lead me here to Western was the town, the atmosphere and most of all the help I got from the Veterans Resource Center when I got here. I always love visiting Western when I can, I would come back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.”