Running to honor fallen soldiers



Kurt Ogren
Kurt Ogren

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, 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