A sea of deep-blue blue shirts cascaded in downtown Milton as hundreds took to the streets in running shoes and shorts.
They clustered in the Veterans Memorial Plaza before the race, bowing their heads in silence, to pay their respects to the fallen.
They gathered, in memory of Lt. J.G. Thomas Cameron of Portland, Ore., a Coast Guard pilot who died in a helicopter crash Feb. during a training exercise in Mobile, Ala. last year. Petty Officer Andrew Knight of Thomasville Ala., LT. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, of Snow Hill N.C., and Chief Petty Officer Jorge Fernando of Cypress, Calif., were killed in the crash.
As they lined up to begin the race through that meandered through downtown, Monsignor Steven Bosso, Pastor of Saint Rose of Lima blessed the runners. He sprinkled them with holy water as they broke out through the starting line.
It was Cameron's brother, Alex, who crossed the finish line first. He ran the 5 kilometers in little more than 15 minutes. He pointed toward the sky while a group of on-lookers cheered him on at the finish line.
“It's that butterflies in the stomach feeling, all the way,” Cameron said after the race, while he cheered on other runners. “It's amazing to see this much support.”
Cameron traveled from Portland to run the memorial 5k in honor of his brother. He finished first last year, as well. He said he was touched by the outreach, and the welcoming nature of the community.
“The town has been great and our hosts have been wonderful,” he said. “They hung a pair of shoelaces for my brother and put up a plaque in the trophy case (in the Blackwater Bistro.)”
The Boys and Girls Club were at the event, with tables set up, offering water and after-race snacks for the participants. Proceeds from the race will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Rosa.
“The chicken nuggets were splendid,” said Matt Robbins of Atlanta, Ga. “I was worried about the rain a bit, but there was a nice breeze.”
Robbins is stationed at NAS Pensacola as part of the CGC-225, a local Coast Guard outfit. He and his fellow crew member Chris Monacelli or Frederick, Maryland came to Milton the 5k run.
“The memorial service was very touching,” Monacelli said. “The race was awesome. It was a great course this year.”