WYANDOTTE, Michigan (WXYZ) — Aaron Bartal served in the army for six years, spending two years in Iraq.
“I lost a lot of guys over there. We lost nine soldiers I served with,” said Bartal.
For the last five years he has been running races while carrying a flag with the names of those nine soldiers and dozens more people he knows who served and died in action or after coming home.
This year he decided to honor their memory with the first annual Running to Honor 5k. It happened at Heritage Park in Taylor on Saturday, July 27. All profits go to the VFW Posts in Wyandotte and Taylor, plus some veterans charities. Bartal is a leader at the Wyandotte Post that is raising money for solar panels as it struggles to survive.
“Twenty years ago we had a thousand members. We are down to 385 now because we are losing our WW2 vets,” said Gary Evans, Quartermaster at VFW Post 1136.
“I am concerned the doors to this facility could close if we can’t lower costs and I believe solar panels are a way to do that,” said Bartal.
Shirts were guaranteed to people who registered for the race before June 14. He ordered sixty extra t-shirts for people who registered after that deadline, but ran out. He says he believes one woman who acted to the news with outrage, stole numerous shirts.
He shared what happened on Facebook to let people who didn’t get shirts because of the theft know, he is paying to replace them. However, given the reason for this race, the point to drive home to those angry is no one should run this race for a t-shirt.
“We’re trying to honor and remember our fallen soldiers and veterans who aren’t here anymore. Whether they passed on the battlefield, they’re not here,” said Bartel.
They are still raising money for the VFW posts and veteran charities. You can learn more at https://www.facebook.com/donate/430855364306996/.