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A 5K race in Virginia Beach will commemorate fallen heroes and the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday.
The Virginia Beach 9/11 Heroes Run at Mount Trashmore Park will honor the heroes who risked their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as those who have served their communities and country since then, according to the Travis Manion Foundation website.
More than 50,000 people around the United States participate in the 5K, resulting in more than $500,000 being invested into local veterans’ support services, the foundation’s website states.
The foundation offers a range of services and programs that empower veterans and family members of fallen heroes, said race coordinator John Straseskie, 41.
Straseskie, who is also a firefighter at the Virginia Beach Fire Department, became involved with the foundation after his little brother, Kirk, died in Iraq in 2003.
The 23-year-old U.S. Marine Corps sergeant was killed trying to rescue a crew from a Marine Sea Knight helicopter that crashed in a flooded canal on May 19, 2003, according to a Virginia Beach Fire Department news release.
The news reported that a Marine died trying to save victims of the helicopter crash. The victims hadn’t been identified yet, but as the story unfolded, Straseskie got the sinking feeling that his brother was among those killed. He admired his little brother’s character and knew that he was the type of person who would try to save lives.
“He had an incredible compassion for people who were weaker than him,” Straseskie said.
About an hour after he first learned of the crash, Straseskie’s father called and confirmed that his little brother was dead.
Straseskie walked onto his porch where he’d last hung out with his brother, making plans for a victory party after deployment.
“Now I’m by myself, and he’s not coming home. We’re not going to have that victory party on my porch,” Straseskie remembers thinking.
Straseskie took the loss of his brother day by day. He was inspired by the young Marine’s service, and joined the Virginia Beach Fire Department in 2009 so he could serve people in the community.
He also devotes his time to helping people through the foundation and is promoting its “Character Does Matter” program. He hopes to bring the program, which allows veterans to mentor youth, to Virginia Beach.
“That’s the perfect example for our youth and community: it’s okay to strive for excellence and be the best you can be, and still serve the weaker and less fortunate,” Straseskie said.