Chris Bryant: Why I Wear Blue

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine of Grit City Photography. Chris Bryant running through the wear blue Mile at the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon.

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine of Grit City Photography. Chris Bryant running through the wear blue Mile at the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon.

A privilege to have Chris in the fold of the wear blue community and humbled to share his words:

"By the time I reached the Hains Point portion of the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon, I’d already run over 11 miles. I’d run the MCM many times, so I knew what this chunk of the course had to offer, and I was not looking forward to it.  The adrenaline and euphoria that fueled the first ten miles had burned off, leaving only the ugly realization that I had not even reached the half way point.  I’d always viewed running the peninsula of Hains Point as the worst part of the race: the uplifting cheering crowds are sparse, the wind whips off the Potomac River, and the next water stop shimmers unseen still two miles away.  So when I swung out under the 14th Street Bridge I put my head down and hoped I could grit it out.

If you’ve never run a race before, you might be surprised by all the noise and chatter amongst the runners.  The steady chorus of tens of thousands of feet is joined by a refrain of racers discussing every topic under the sun.  Some runners sing, many grunt, and others laugh, but quiet is not a characteristic of most races.  

So the quiet that encompassed the throng at Mile 12 is what I noticed first.  Voices hushed.  Some whispered while others gasped.  I looked up and saw a mile-long line of American flags and the cheering of the wear blue: run to remember team.  Most importantly, I saw that the mile was lined with what had to be hundreds of photos of those who had sacrificed their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  It was painfully poignant and I found myself – for the first time ever on a run – wishing that a mile could both be longer and shorter.

I’ve been asked many times what it was like to run that mile, passing the cheering wear blue team members, the American flags and the photos of those brave men and women who selflessly gave all.  My reply is this: it was transforming.

I had not even heard of wear blue: run to remember before I saw their booth at the MCM Expo.  When I spoke with the team members I realized that this was a great cause: to honor and remember those who had fallen and their families and, in some small way, to run the race as a living memorial to the American military.  So I bought a wear blue shirt and wore a bib in honor of Sgt. Dan Woodcock, 82nd Airborne, Panther Brigade.  Sgt. Woodcock was the best friend of my nephew Jesse Vandevort.   Dan and Jesse served with the 82nd in Iraq.  Sadly, Dan was killed in combat in Iraq on 11 March 2007.  

I had no idea of how making the decision to wear blue would impact my perspective on running.  I am a very average and ordinary runner.  But on that bright October day, on that mile, and on every mile since, I have felt extraordinary.  I feel that I am now part of something bigger, more meaningful.  Each plodding step I take, every time I lace ‘em up and step out into the pre-dawn dark and cold, I now do it in honor and remembrance of those who sacrificed all they had and all they will ever have.  When the time came for soldiers like Dan Woodcock to stand and deliver, they did so. They did not crawl back into bed, nor say “tomorrow; I will do it tomorrow.”  The families they left behind, too, stand and deliver every day.  They move ahead and ensure that the sacrifices their loved ones made will forge a happier and better life.  Perhaps their sacrifices are even greater.  

It’s just a blue shirt, I know that.  And there are many other worthwhile causes to which one can dedicate.  I don’t know if wearing the blue when I run makes a difference, or if those whose sacrifices I feebly try to honor know what I and others attempt to do when wearing blue during our runs and races.  It doesn’t matter.  I wear the blue because those who gave their all – like Dan Woodcock -- deserve to be remembered and honored; because their spouses should know that we appreciate what they sacrificed, and that we, too, cherish their memory; because the children of those who gave all they had should know that their parents are heroes.  None shall be forgotten.  So I wear blue, and I run to remember."

Chris  Bryant