Annual Run for the Fallen honors service men and women with ties to Merced County

08/12/2014 6:39 PM

08/12/2014 7:12 PM

A run this month is dedicated to a man with ties to Atwater who died 10 years ago in a battle in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The fifth annual Run for the Fallen will be in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield, a 19-year-old man killed in Iraq in 2004. The 4.2-mile run or walk begins at 8 a.m. Aug. 23 at Applegate Park, 1045 W. 25th St.

Dianne Layfield of Fremont said her son was always the life of the party, making sure everyone enjoyed himself.

“Travis would always go to dances and things at school, and he would make sure no one was ever neglected,” the 63-year-old said. “He always made sure that everybody had a good time.”

She went on to say that he always put others before himself.

The Marine also has a son, Dylan, who is now 13 and still lives in Atwater, she said. The family has gathered at each run to give the young man a chance to honor his father.

Events like Run for the Fallen are important, Layfield said, to honor those who died in service to the country. “We still have military serving and being lost each and every day,” she said. “Their lives are on the line and we just want to make sure that’s brought to the forefront.”

Layfield said the run will be “a little more special” this year because it’s dedicated to her son, but she said it’s “always a beautiful event.” She also organizes a golf tournament in Fremont to honor her son.

Ten service men and women with ties to Merced County who have died while serving since Sept. 11, 2001, are honored each year by hundreds of runners at Run for the Fallen. The local event was inspired by its national counterpart.

As in years past, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Ernie Conner will conduct the ceremonies before the run. He said the displays and presentations have grown in time.

The opening will include a military salute, he said. Pictures of each fallen soldier will be hung along the route.

Run for the Fallen organizer Anita Richards said runners who want to honor a fallen member of the military from any era are welcome. She is the mother of Staff Sgt. Frank J. Gasper, 25, who was killed in Iraq on May 25, 2008.

Registration remains open through the start of the race. Participants can register online at rftfmerced.eventbrite.com. Runners and walkers can also sign up at 7 a.m. the day of the race. More than 1,000 people ran or walked in Merced’s Run for the Fallen in 2013.

Information on Merced’s event is also available on Facebook, or by contacting Conner at enjconr@sbcglobal.net or (209) 357-3764.

For more on the national event, go to www.runforthefallen.org.

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