It’s been a decade since Karina Lau was killed in action, but it doesn’t seem that long to parents Ruth and Augustin Lau.
“It’s like yesterday for us,” her mother, 55, said. “It’s too hard.”
The fourth Run for the Fallen is dedicated to Pfc. Karina Lau; the Livingston 20-year-old was killed in Iraq on Nov. 2, 2003, with 15 other American soldiers when their transport helicopter was shot down in an attack west of Baghdad.
The 4.2-mile run or walk begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at Applegate Park, 1045 W. 25th St. The day honors service men and women killed in action.
Serving in the Army meant much to Lau, who worked in radio communication.
“It was so important for her to do her job, helping people,” her mother said, adding her daughter wanted to make people happy.
“She was a special girl,” she said.
Augustin Lau said his daughter loved music and played several different instruments, but her favorite was the saxophone. They had the instrument engraved on her headstone.
His daughter had her eyes set on teaching music or even making it on Broadway, the 69-year-old said. He said she was a stickler for being punctual.
“She liked to do everything perfect,” he said. “She was a real smart girl.”
Saturday’s run honoring their daughter is bittersweet, he said.
“We are proud of everyone honoring her, at the same time we feel a little sad,” he said. “Every time they name something in her honor, we remember she is dead.”
Karina Lau’s room in her Livingston home remains the same as the day she died, her parents said, only it’s gained artwork and remembrances from strangers who heard her story.
The Lau family’s service to the country didn’t end with their daughter — son Luis is a seaman.
Run For the Fallen organizer Anita Richards, a Gold Star Mother, said runners who want to honor a fallen soldier from any era are welcome.
Richards is the mother of Staff Sgt. Frank J. Gasper, 25, who was killed in Iraq on May 25, 2008.
It’s important to keep your child’s name alive, she said, when dealing with grief.
“It’s been really a great experience for me,” she said, about the run. “For me it’s been healing.”
This year’s event is sponsored by Lions Breakfast Club, Merced Elks Lodge, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars from Ballico and Winton, as well as a number of businesses. The run’s official T-shirt will bear Karina Lau’s name.
About 400 are registered, Richards said, but many more will jump on when registration opens at 7 a.m. Saturday near the flag pole. More than 1,000 ran or walked in Merced in 2012.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at email@example.com.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Merced County residents who’ve died in war zones since Sept. 11, 2001:
Karina Lau, Nov. 2, 2003
Travis J. Layfield, April 6, 2004
Cesar A. Granados, Sept. 15, 2006
Joshua Pickard, Dec. 19, 2006
Frank J. Gasper, May 25, 2008
Janelle F. King, Aug. 14, 2008
Lukas C. Hopper, Oct. 30, 2009
David Hartman, Feb. 3, 2010
Matthew Abbate, Dec. 2, 2010
Vincent Wayne Ashlock, Dec. 4, 2010
Jose Rodriguez, 22, June 19, 2012