By Beth David, Editor
The LCpl Matthew R. Rodriguez Memorial Foundation sponsored the second annual “Run to Remember” 5K road race at Fort Phoenix on Sunday, 3/26. Matthew, a Fairhaven resident, was 19 when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on 12/11/13. His family created the foundation in his memory. It provides scholarships to high school seniors and help to veterans and their families.
Matthew’s sister Lauren Webber greeted the 183 registered runners and walker, spectators and friends on Sunday, with a long list of sponsors and volunteers to thank.
“We’re here to run or walk or ruck* in honor of our hero, Matthew Rodriguez. But we also run for thos that ran for us,” said Ms. Webber (ruck means to run with a rucksack). “We run for those who no longer can. We run for the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice. We run for the 22 veterans that take their lives daily. We run for these and every Gold Star family so they know their loved one’s sacrifice will never be forgotton.”
She also recognized the Gold Star families who were in attendance, some running in the race.
“We run for your father, mother, grandparent, brother, sister, husband, wife, neighbor or best friend that proudly put on their uniform and represented the Marine Corps, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard,” said Ms. Webber.
She also acknowledged several firefighters who died fighting fires in Massachusetts.
During the race, Ms. Webber offered a running commentary (so to speak) of encouragement, as each runner came over the finish line. She seemed to know most names and when she didn’t, she’s just say “go you!”
The atmosphere was festive and, at times, emotional on a blustery day that featured a strong and cold wind off the water.
But the runners were not deterred.
“I like running in the colder weather,” said Pam Kuechler.
Winners received the foundation’s version of the military’s “challenge coin.”
First over the line in 19:50 was Kevin Wills, 29, of Jamaica Plain. Next came Fairhaven’s own Shane McNamara, 14, over the line in 20:40. Third place went to Andrew Martin, 12, of Fairhaven, in 21:14.
For the women, Melanie Oliver, 42, of New Bedford in 23:42, who was sixth overall.
Matthew’s mother Lisa Rodriguez was at Fort Phoenix, where the finish and start line was, while his father Rolando “Rod” Rodriguez stayed at the house, which was on the route. At the end of the race, Mr. Rodriguez joined the rest of the clan at Fort Phoenix.
“It’s a good day,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “We take it one day at a time.”
She said the support of the community, in town and the military, has helped the family in the last three years.
For more information about the foundation, visit TheSmilingWarrior.org.
For race results visit https:// my.racewire.com/results/33235
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