Remembering the 31 Heroes in 31 Miles around Catalina

Participants in the 31 miles fundraiser stopped at various points around the course to listen to brief remembrances of the 30 soldiers and one military dog who lost their lives on this mission. Courtesy photo

The city of Avalon came together this week to celebrate the first ever participation in the 31 Miles for 31 Heroes fundraiser, according to VFW Island Outpost Commander Jen Dreizehn.

In a hot and emotional day, representatives turned out from across the island to support the military and the memory of those 31 soldiers remembered during this event. She said the Avalon City Fire Department, Search and Rescue, Lifeguard, Harbor Patrol and LA County Fire Department all had representatives particpating in the event.

While standing next to a piece of beam from the World Trade Center that was donated to the Avalon Fire Station after the 9/11 attack in NY, Chief Mike Krug read the Bio of SO1 Jesse Pitman, who was a CALfire wildland firefighter before becoming a Navy SEAL.

Standing at the city council meeting this week, Harbormaster J.J. Poindexter pointed out that Krug actually finished the 31-mile grueling run.

The largest team to participate was The Real Housewives of Catalina with 7 members. Group Leader Katrina Perea said, “Stopping and listening to each fallen hero’s story was pretty emotional. In 12 hours, we journeyed 31 miles together to remember the sacrifice they made.”

“I felt, if they could pay the ultimate sacrifice, I could hike 31 miles,” said Debbie Wright.

The closing ceremony was held at the Veterans Memorial Park where a moment of silence was held while each name of the fallen 31 were read followed by the playing of Taps.

Commander Dreizehn told the participants “I will never forget the morning of August 6, 2011. I was stationed with the Army in Virginia Beach, VA. These men were not just a group of elite fighters we pulled out of a box and sent to war. They were our neighbors. Our children played together. We went to the same churches.”

“We shopped at the same grocery stores. These men were part of our community. Not only was everyone affected in the largely military community of Virginia Beach, but these Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen were from various towns across the nation. I think this was a huge hit to the heart of our country and its armed forces. I am grateful to have known personally some of these men and I am honored that our community in Avalon would join with me in remembering not only their sacrifices but their lives,” said Dreizehn.

On the night of August 5, 2011, a platoon from Bravo Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, was conducting a direct-action raid against a high-value target named Qari Tahir in the village of Jaw-e-Mekh Zareen; a Taliban stronghold in the Wardak Province’s Tangi Valley.

The Ranger force of 47 personnel infiltrated a few kilometers from the target building and began taking contact immediately. The Rangers reached and secured the main target compound, killing or capturing over a dozen Taliban fighters. But before reaching the building, the main target, Qari Tahir, and a small group of Taliban fighters escaped. The Joint Operations Center decided to send in a second team; special operators who were on standby in support of the Ranger mission were now called upon to chase/contain the fighters who escaped.

Upon infiltration in the early hours of the 6th of August, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17,” was hit by an RPG round fired from enemy fighters in a nearby two-story building, destroying the aft-rotor assembly and sending the helicopter to the ground.

The Rangers immediately rushed to the crash site, seven kilometers away, and began the grueling task of securing and recovering all the personnel. There were no survivors.

The U.S. lost 30 brave soldiers and one Army dog in the crash that is now remembered around the country.

Qari Tahir, the high-value target, would be killed in an airstrike in late September of that same year.

This tragedy resulted in the deaths of 30 active duty military members and 1 service canine. To celebrate the incredible lives of these fallen heroes and support their families, 31 Miles for 31 Heroes holds annual memorial rucks (marches) at various locations throughout the world.

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