HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- Runners are on a cross-country venture to pay tribute to fallen heroes. It's called Run For the Fallen. The run honors every American service member who has died since the War on Terror began. This weekend, the group making the trek received a warm welcome in Huntsville.
Eager runners waited to greet the group down Oakwood Avenue.
"It's only two miles from here to the memorial," U.S. Army CSM Billy Counts said.
But Tamara Spadafore didn't want to wait around. She left at dawn to join them before they left Lynchburg.
"I got no sleep at all because I was nervous. More nervous than any other running race ever," Spadafore said.
Carrying flags, the runners each do two miles, then rest for six. There are frequent stops in which they read the names of fallen soldiers.
"It was really touching. And the miles we had families present, tearjerking and heartfelt," Spadafore said. "It was great to spend that time with them and thank them for their sacrifice."
The going wasn't easy, but it was a worthy cause that kept them going.
"We've been progressing through the heat and a little bit of showers all day," Run for the Fallen organizer George Lutz said.
"We the living, especially those who are still currently serving, make a solemn vow to our soldiers, our brothers and sisters in arms that we will never forget," CSM Counts said.
The weekend pit stop in Huntsville means the runners are nearing the home stretch. The run began in April in California and the runners have almost a month left on the route before they reach their destination, Arlington, Virginia. They say their time in Huntsville has been invigorating.
"We've had feast or famine. A few runners at times and then dozens at other times. And Alabama has just been phenomenal and we're really appreciative of the support," Lutz said.
Organizers say, even if they don't continue the journey next year, they're grateful for a warm welcome in Huntsville. On Sunday, the group of runners will continue east through Paint Rock and Scottsboro. They plan to arrive in Arlington on August 5th.
You can read more about their journey and watch the run live at the Run for the Fallen website.