By Rachel Jervis, Compass Media Contributing Writer
Son, Brother, Loved One, Friend, Hero…these are all words that surround the name Pvt. Heath Warner. Warner was a bright young man who had a passion for life and culture. He enjoyed spending time with his parents, Scott and Melissa, and his two younger brothers, Chandler and Ashton, as well as his friends. Graduating from McKinley High School in 2005, Warner knew he wanted to become a Marine.
In 2004 he enlisted in the delayed entrance program. After high school, Warner attended boot camp and additional School of Infantry training. Stationed in Hawaii for a period, in September, 2006, he was deployed to Iraq. Conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province on November 22, 2006, Warner was killed by a roadside bomb. His final resting place is Arlington National Cemetery. Rather than mourn the loss of their son, the Warners decided to do something to honor him. On May 26, 2008, the first Pvt. Heath Warner 5K Run and Family Fun Walk – Running to Remember race was held in Canton, Ohio.
In 2012 the Warners reached out to Annie Arvidson, the Principal at McGregor Elementary School in Canton, with an idea about how to get school age children involved in the event. Ultimately, ‘The Heart of a Hero Running Program’ was established. This program encourages 4th and 5th graders to have positive self-esteem, confidence, a healthy lifestyle, and a moral compass to guide their lives. The program lasts 10 weeks and each child is given a special shirt, new tennis shoes, and a medal at the end. Principal Arvidson went above and beyond the 10-week program and brought the students to the Pvt. Heath Warner 5K Run and Family Fun Walk – Running to Remember race in 2014. The children as well as staff members participated in the race that inspired the program.
At the 2014 race, participant Frances Jervis stated, “This event is a great way to honor a hero, get some exercise, and show support for our military families. I was very humbled when I realized the military men and women in our community were also at the race – not only to support each other, but to support and cheer for me, too.”
Gary Jervis commented, “Coming from a military family where my father, uncles, and their children have served this great nation, it was so nice to see how the community truly appreciates the service men and women. It was heartwarming to see so many military personnel present and to be able to thank them for their service. I look forward to this event continuing and plan to attend each year.”
This year marks the eighth Pvt. Heath Warner 5K Run and Family Fun Walk – Running to Remember race. The Warners are looking forward to celebrating their son’s life with their family, friends, and community. The proceeds from the race will help surviving military families and returning veterans, as well as other community projects through the Pvt. Heath Warner Memorial Fund.
The Warners may have lost their son, but they will never lose the love and pride that they have for him. Scott Warner said, “Heath believed in the mission he was fighting in. He told us before he left for Iraq that he was going over there to fight so we would not have to fight the terrorists over here. We know that while on top of that humvee, Heath was thinking of us, his family, friends and fellow Americans. He died thinking of us and we live thinking of him.”
Registration is now open for the 2015 race which will be held at the Paul and Carol David YMCA in Jackson Township on Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 8:00 am. There will be 4-mile and 2-mile races, and new this year, a 2-mile ‘Pups Love Heroes’ walk so ‘man’s best friend’ can participate. For registration fees and information, go to www.privateheathwarner.com. Who will you be running to remember this Memorial Day weekend?
Running to Remember