Local couple supports the troops

Liz Pyles
Taryn and Jason Burkleo of Lake Shastina keep their friends in the armed forces in mind by running the July 4 race in their honor.

Last year was the first year Jason Burkleo ran the 5-Mile wearing 22 pounds of body armor and carrying a flag which weighs approximately as much as a rifle.

Names of friends who have died in service and those still serving are written on the flagpole.

Jason planned to run again this year, but could not due to knee surgery two weeks before the race. That's where Jason's wife, Taryn, stepped in. Just as proud of the country's service men/women, she volunteered to continue the tradition and ran the 5-Miles with the body armor and flag, for Jason. “It was honoring, because these guys do so much more,” said Taryn. “I'm just proud I could do something for these men that do so much for our freedom.”

She wants to remember their sacrifices. “The guys carry 130 pounds usually,” she said. “I got a slight taste of what they are feeling.”

Taryn said Jason makes everything look so easy, so she was surprised at how awkward it was to run with the vest and flag. Not being able to swing her arms made running harder.

Jason has been in the Marine Corps off and on for 15 years and has run the 4th of July race for the last 10 years. He said last year he wanted to do something special on Independence Day, because they are so personally connected to these wars. “I just didn't want to forget,” he said.

For Taryn, daughter of Troy and Debra Woods, the 4th of July event has been a family tradition every year (except one) since it started 33 years ago. Four years ago, they started the Freedom Isn't Free float to honor and say thank you to all military men and women.