About 200 military-police officers with the 385th MP Battalion took part in a special run early Friday morning from Fort Stewart’s Marne Garden to the Hinesville Police Department.
The occasion for the 2.24-mile run was to support the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Jerry “Jay” Chandler said that in addition to soldiers, some of his unit’s family members participated, with at least one pushing a stroller. Some special-needs families also participated, including Jeffrey Keating Jr., who ran with his father, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Keating Sr. Young Jeffrey even helped light the torch before the run.
“My executive officer, Maj. Nate Underwood, is the brainchild behind this event,” Chandler said. “Law enforcement has always had a special relationship with the Special Olympics. There were scheduling problems that prevented us from doing this when the Special Olympics were held in Hinesville (April 25).
“Today’s event culminates our Dragoon (Battalion) Week. We’ve had spouses’ competitions, played softball at the Sand Gnats’ stadium and played basketball and volleyball here. (Thursday), we had a commander’s cross-fit challenge and a picnic at Holbrook Recreation Area.”
As Chandler spoke to the media, his noncommissioned officers stretched and warmed up for the run. Third Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin spoke to the soldiers on behalf of 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, expressing his thanks for participating in a worthy event. He said the Special Olympics’ Law Enforcement Torch Run is one of the Special Olympics’ largest fundraisers.
Lighting the torch was perhaps the biggest challenge for the short run, as a constant breeze kept blowing out the flame. When it finally was lit, Jeffrey held it proudly. He ran next to his father and Chandler at the head of the formation during most of the run.
The run route took the soldiers down Bultman Avenue from Marne Garden to Gate 2 and then onto Olmstead Drive to Main Street. Police patrol cars, with their lights flashing, stopped traffic at every crossing. The unit then snaked its way around the traffic circle on Memorial Drive, heading toward the Justice Center, where it turned onto East M.L. King Jr. Drive.
All along the route, each company shouted its own cadence songs, which brought civilians to the doors of their homes and shops as the formation came into downtown Hinesville. Older veterans came to the doors of their homes, alerted by the sound of someone singing about a “C-130 going down the strip” or a special 91-year-old grandmother who does physical training for fun.
The headquarters element peeled off from the formation as it neared HPD headquarters. The rest of the formation was allowed to slow from a “double time” run to a “quick time” march, and then to march in place so the soldiers could cool down. After the command of “halt,” they were given an order to face right so they could see the torch handed off to HPD Chief George Stagmeier.
Jeffrey joined Stagmeier, Chandler, Gilpin, 385th MP Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Robledo and a soldier who helped carry the torch for a group photo. Jeffrey then got a high-five from his dad for making the run.
“We’re delighted to be a part of the Special Olympics’ Law Enforcement Torch Run,” Stagmeier said, noting that his department works “almost daily” with Fort Stewart’s military police. “I think it’s a great cause. The community is very aware of the Special Olympics, and we support it any way we can.”