BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School Principal Kurt Ogren admits he has lost a step since the days he ran cross country and track at Hamden High School and Springfield College.
“I’m a lot slower than I used to be,” said Ogren, 45, sitting in his office last week.
Despite falling off pace a bit, Ogren is still plenty quick enough to “run for the fallen.”
Ogren is participating in the 5th Annual Run for the Fallen Connecticut Sept. 6 in Middletown.
The annual event is a 65 kilometer — 40.3 miles — run to pay tribute to and honor the 65 military members from Connecticut who died in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom since 9/11.
The Run for the Fallen movement started in 2008. According to www.runforthefallen.org, a team of runners ran across the country from Fort Irwin, Calif. to Arlington National Cemetery — one mile for every military member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Each mile was marked with an American flag and card in remembrance of each service member, according to the website.
The initiative spawned annual runs, which are also now held in nearly every state.
The Connecticut run is an 8 kilometer course, about 5 miles. Waves of runners go off every hour until the 65 kilometers are complete, Ogren explained. Each kilometer is dedicated to a Connecticut service member who was killed in action.
The last mile is a ceremonial one during which family members of the service men and women are invited to take part as well.
“It’s kind of part of the healing process for them too,” said Ogren about the run. “It’ll be great for me to be part of it.”
Runners can choose to participate in parts of the run or the entire 65 kilometers. Ogren plans to run all 65 kilometers.
While his days of running with cross country and track teams are behind him, Ogren is no stranger to long-distance running. Ogren has continually run over the years as a way to stay in shape and help clear his head.
Over the past 25 years, Ogren said, he has run in 25 marathons, including three ultramarathons — races over 26.2 miles.
Ogren said he was looking into some races to run in this year when he came across Run for the Fallen Connecticut.
“It seems like a great thing to be a part of,” he said. “It’s a run where you’re honoring our people from the military who have passed away. … I figured it would be a nice tribute.”
Ogren said he’s always respected the military. His late father Karl Ogren served in the U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard from 1963 to 1970.
Ogren said he admires service members for their sacrifices and the sacrifices made by the families of military men and women.
“Your life can change in a moment and your perspective in life can change in a moment,” Ogren said.
Ogren said he decided to take part in the run mainly to raise awareness and pay tribute to the 65 soldiers from Connecticut killed in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Those 65 names, sometimes they get forgotten,” he said.
Ogren added it also sets a good example about getting involved in the community for the students at Woodland. Each student must complete 40 hours of community service during their time at Woodland, although most do much more Ogren pointed out.
“As principal, I want to set the positive example,” he said.
Aside from paying tribute, Ogren is also looking to raise funds for three organizations that help veterans. He is seeking donations for the Wounded Warrior Project, Team Red, White & Blue and Friends of Fisher House of Connecticut.
Checks can be made payable to one of the organizations and mailed to: Kurt Ogren, Woodland Regional High School, 135 Back Rimmon Road, Beacon Falls, CT 06403.
Ogren said he has no specific fundraising goal in mind.
“Whatever it is I’d be happy with,” he said.
As the Run for the Fallen approaches, Ogren has stepped up his training and is looking forward to being a part of the tribute.
“I think it’ll be very emotional,” he said. “It’ll be very rewarding to be a part of it from start to finish.”
All 65 kilometers are dedicated to a specific soldier, sailor, airmen or marine who was killed in combat. Below is the list of the fallen with their rank and hometown:
Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, Windsor Locks
Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Vitagliano, New Haven
Staff Sgt. Richard S. Eaton, Jr., Guilford
Spc. Jacob D. Martir, Willimantic/ Norwich
Sgt. Richard L. Ford, East Hartford
Sgt. Joseph M. Nolan, Waterbury
Sgt. Edward C. Kramer, Southington
Sgt. David T. Friedrich, Naugatuck
Sgt. Edward Frank II, Hartford
Maj. Raymond Estelle, New Haven
Pfc. Stephen K. Richardson, Bridgeport
Pfc. Orlando Gonzalez, Bridgeport
Pfc. Anthony D’Agostino, Waterbury
DC3 Nathaniel Bruckenthat, Ridgefield
Lt. Col. Michael J. McMmahon, West Hartford
1st Lt. Thomas J. Brown, Shelton
Capt. Brian S. Letendre, New Britain
Capt. Jason Hamill, Salem
Sgt. Benjamin Gilman, Meriden
CW3 William Brennan, Bethlehem
Spc. Tyanna Avery-Felder, Bridgeport
Cpl. Christian Cotner, Waterbury
1st Lt. Keith Heidtman, Norwich
Capt. Eric Paliwoda, Farmington
Pfc. Nicholas Madaras, Wilton
Cpl. Kevin Dempsey, Monroe
Lance Cpl. John T. Schmidt III, Brookfield
Spc. Christopher Hoskins, Killingly
Pfc. Jeffrey Braun, Stafford
Spc. Phillip Schiller, Hartford
Pfc. Melissa Hobart, East Haven
Spc. Daehan Park, Watertown
Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Spino, Waterbury
Sgt. Jason Lantieri, Killingworth
Gunnery Sgt. Phillip Jordan, Enfield
Maj. Steve Reich, Washington
Staff Sgt. Edwin Rivera, Waterford
Staff Sgt. Ari Cullers, Waterford
Cpl. Kemaphoom Chanawongse, Waterford
Staff Sgt. Henry Irizarry, Waterbury
Pfc. Eric Soufrine, Woodbridge
Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Phaneuf II, Eastford
Spc. Dennis Pratt, Waterbury
Petty Officer 1st Class Jason D. Lewis, Brookfield
SOC Brian Hill, Stamford
Lance Cpl. Tyler Owen Griffin, Voluntown
Cpl. Xhacob Latorre, Waterbury
Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson, Enfield
Lance Cpl. Lawrence Phiippon, West Hartford
Pfc. Gebrah Noonan, Watertown
Spc. Wilfredo Perez, Jr., Norwalk
Cpl. Jordan C. Pierson, Milford
Spc. Richard Emmons III, North Granby
Sgt. Maj. Philip Albert, Plymouth
Spc. Andre Craig, Jr., New Haven
Cpl. Stephen Bixler, Suffield
Spc. David Fahey, Norwalk
Staff Sgt. Frank Adamski III, Moosup
Sgt. Felix Delgreco, Simsbury
Spc. Robert Hoyt, Bristol
Capt. Benjamin Sklaver, Hamden
Sgt. David Coullard, Glastonbury
Sgt. Steven DeLuzio, Glastonbury
Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel, Madison
Staff Sgt. Todd Lobracio, New Fairfield