South Central Ohio Educational Service Center Superintendent Sandy Mers received the Community Leader of the Year Award from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 24, for her work with Wear Blue: Run to Remember.
“I was honored and completely overwhelmed. This organization has such love and support for everyone, it meant the world to me,” Mers said.
Wear Blue: Run to Remember is a national not-for-profit, dedicated to using active remembrance and meaningful relationships to empower families of the fallen, support our military and their families, and honor and remember the service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Wear Blue: Run to Remember was founded following a 2009 5-2 Stryker Brigade deployment to Afghanistan. A small group of spouses and battalion support staff met weekly to run, creating a support network for one another during the deployment. The brigade sustained tremendous losses, including the loss of Wear Blue President and co-founder Lisa Hallett’s husband, Captain John Hallett, who died in a roadside bomb attack.
Following his death, Hallett turned to running for healing and quickly realized she wasn’t alone. Wear Blue hosts meaningful Saturday community runs around the world, powerful living memorials at national races, and four additional programs supporting the American military and their families.
This year, Wear Blue: Run to Remember is hosting an inaugural awards benefit in Washington, DC to celebrate its athletes, supporters, and community.
"In communities across the nation, Wear Blue: Run to Remember supports those living by honoring those who have sacrificed all. When life becomes challenging, and we want to quit, we have to dig deep, find our grit, and persevere, because honor has no finish line," Hallett said. "Our awards benefit is the chance to highlight those persons and groups internal and external of our community who passionately work and live lives worthy of these sacrifices."
Mers hosts local Wear Blue walks in Ashland, Ky., in honor of her brother-in-law, Army CW2 Theodore (TUC) Church, who was killed May 28, 2007, in a helicopter crash in Iraq.
Holding a flag on the Wear Blue mile during the 2018 Marine Corp Marathon while her sister-in-law, a Gold Star spouse, raced, moved Mers from passive volunteer to passionate advocate for wear blue. Two short months after this powerful experience, Sandy led the first Saturday Run for a newly founded Ashland, Ky., Wear Blue community. Since then, Sandy’s persistent and infectious enthusiasm has grown the running group into a robust community of over 55 people turning out to honor the service and sacrifice of the American Military.
“I could tell Sandy had a passion for wear blue right away! Once she became her area coordinator, she was a force for our mission,” Carrie Moschetto, director of Saturday Runs said. “She does live Facebook videos before each run to encourage others to come out, and she is always so welcoming and excited to share our mission with others. She goes above and beyond and is always helping and encouraging others.”
The Wear Blue awards benefit was held on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Army Navy Country Club to honor Wear Blue’s Gold Star Youth of the Year, Gold Star Athlete of the Year, Peer of Excellence, and Community Leader of the Year (Mers).
Award-winning journalist Jonathan Elias was the awards emcee, and presenters recent Chief of Staff of the Army and newly appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and his wife HollyAnne Milley; runner and motivational speaker Meb Keflezighi; and Gold Star Spouse Traci Voelke.
Mers hosts her runs on the first Saturday of each month, at Ashland Central Park, in Ashland, Ky., beginning at 8 am, at the Crab Elementary entrance. All are welcome to participate.
“People don’t have to run. They don’t even have to walk,” Mers explained. “It’s just important for people to be there to show their support and participate in our circle of remembrance.”
For more information about Wear Blue, visit them online at www.wearblueruntoremember.org. For more information about the South Central Ohio ESC, visit online at www.scoesc.org, or follow on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.