Military police participate in Special Olympics torch run
Led by Col. Patrick W. Williams, commander, 89th MP Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, left; Lt. Col. Michael Mathews, commander, 97th MP Bn., center; and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick M. Quirk, 97th MP Bn., right, Soldiers with the 97th MP Bn. continue the tradition of participating in the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run May 31 in support of the Junction City/Fort Riley Pacesetters, a local team of Special Olympians.
Story by: Pamela Redford
1ST INF. DIV. POST
Upholding their mission to assist, protect and defend, Soldiers with the 97th Military Police Battalion participated in the annual Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run May 31, a tradition military police at Fort Riley have upheld for nearly three decades.
Between May 29 and June 1, law enforcement officers and athletes from 93 agencies in Kansas ran through 38 counties, carrying the Flame of Hope to Cessna Stadium at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan., to light the cauldron June 1 that signified the opening of the 42nd annual Summer Games.
Started in 1981 by Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, the event raises more than $30 million each year with more than 85,000 law enforcement officers participating in 35 nations. In 2011, the run raised more than $42 million.
Civilians with Fort Riley's Directorate of Emergency Services also ran with the 97th MP Bn. this year and helped strengthen partnerships between Fort Riley and the civilian law enforcement agencies in the surrounding communities.
But while the run was good for community relations, the heart of the matter was the Soldiers' support of the 20 athletes currently on the Junction City/Fort Riley Special Olympics Team, said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick M. Quirk.
"It's really about the Soldiers' passion for doing the right thing … Supporting these kids and their endeavors to do great things is awesome, and what a beautiful day to do it," he said.
The unusually cool weather with a breeze was a stark contrast from last year's run, when temperatures soared into the 90's.
The battalion picked up the torch from Riley County Police Department officers at Ogden Access Control Point and ran six miles through the post, handing the flame to officers with the Junction City Police Department and Geary County Sheriff's Office at the Grant Access Control Point, as the Junction City/Fort Riley Pacesetters observed.
Sgt. Maj. Teresa Duncan, operations sergeant major, 97th MP Bn., recalled participating in a torch run at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., when she was stationed there.
"(This event) is just amazing; I love it. This is perseverance at its finest," she said. "These kids are so happy to be here. They're amazing to me. I think they're a gift."
Twenty athletes from Fort Riley and Geary County are involved in the local Special Olympics team. Their head coach, John Hagerty, participated in his first torch run as a military police officer at Fort Riley in 1989. Now retired, he's been volunteering with the Pacesetters since 1995.
"This meant a lot, and the kids love it … the police raise money, but they also bring recognition to the kids," Hagerty said.
Col. Patrick W. Williams, commander, 89th MP Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, traveled to Fort Riley to participate in the run.
"I've been doing (the torch run) for years. I first did it here when I was a company commander, and then later, as the battalion commander. (Lt. Col. Michael) Mathews was one of my lieutenants," he said.
Mathews, commander, 97th MP Bn., said the longstanding tradition for Fort Riley MPs is a unique connection with local law enforcement.
"Mostly though, it's about supporting the Special Olympics, and what a great cause it is. Just seeing the smiles on these guys' faces today is always a treat. Same as last year, they're just always happy to see Soldiers and talk to them. Handshakes and hugs make a big difference for lots of people," he said.
For more information about the Special Olympics in Kansas, visit www.ksso.org.