OTTUMWA — Memorial Day is a special day when we remember all of those who have given everything for the country they love. To help carry on the memory of one fallen soldier from Ottumwa, participants gathered Monday at Greater Ottumwa Park for the annual Jog 4 Joe event.
Runners, walkers and even a few canine companions came to the park not only to try to reach a personal best in the 5k race but also to share fond memories of Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski.
“It’s fantastic to have people remember, which this [race] is all about,” Mary Ellen Winston, Hamski’s mother, said in a speech before the race. “There are so many families who are missing a member … because of their family member’s commitment to their country.”
Hamiski was a soldier from Ottumwa who was killed in action while serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in May 2011.
According to Jog 4 Joe co-organizer Carl Hensley, after Hamiski passed away, his family and friends knew they had to do something to help honor and remember him. That’s when they got the idea to have a 5K run and walk. Thanks to the event, they get reminders of him very often.
“We wanted to have something to remember Joseph [Hamiski],” Hensley said. “Personally, I think of him a lot more because of this with getting ahold of people and getting things ready.”
This year’s event was the second annual race in Ottumwa, but third year overall. According to Hensley, they started it two years ago at the base in Germany where Hamski was stationed. They decided to move it to Ottumwa last year, since this is where Hamski is from.
A group of 119 participants registered for this year’s race, which is an increase of almost 20 people from last year, Hensley said.
“It’s nice to see so much community interest,” he said.
The top three participants in each age group were rewarded with a medal at the end of the race, and the top time overall was 19:10, run by Josh Reber.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh