‘Walk to Remember’ to salute fallen Kansas, Missouri soldiers
They'll be walking for Tonganoxie Spc. Lucas Frantz and other fallen soldiers this weekend in Weston, Mo.
The city of Weston on Saturday will play host to the second annual "Walk to Remember" honoring the more than 100 Kansas and Missouri soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 5K walk was designed as a way to commemorate the lives of the soldiers and to raise money for a Fallen Soldier bronze statue in the form of a Battlefield Cross -- a gun, with its barrel in the ground, a helmet on the butt and two GI boots placed in front -- that will be donated to each of the soldiers' home towns.
This year, walk organizers have chosen to raise money for at least four memorials including one for Frantz, who was killed by sniper fire on Oct. 18, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq.
Frantz's widow Kelly, who spoke at last year's walk, heard from a cousin that this year's money was going toward a statue for Lucas.
"I'm very honored," Kelly said. "I think it's a great thing."
Kelly said the statue was a way of never forgetting Lucas, which she said was something she had been trying to do since he died.
Paul Jeannin, Lucas' mother-in-law, also was delighted to hear the news. She said it was generous and unselfish of the walk organizers.
"It's hard for most people to realize that a death of a soldier is so different than dealing with a death from health reasons or an accident. It's so different because it's so much more in the public eye," Jeannin said. "You don't really get past it."
The walk began as a way for Kristen Farnan to honor her brother Pfc. Colby Farnan, who was killed on Feb. 25, 2005 in Iraq.
Farnan's aunt, Barbara Lott, who organizes the event, said Kristen's original dream was to have a statue for each soldier. With the success of last year's walk, her dream may come true.
Around 800 people attended last year's walk, where they managed to raise $22,000. Each statue costs $4,400 with an additional $3,000 or $4,000 going toward the granite base, plaque and other installation costs.
The statue's artist, Richard Rist, a former veteran himself, considers it his mission to create these memorials for the families of fallen soldiers.
"I call them all my special customers," Rist said. "If I have a stack of messages and one of them is from the father of a Marine, he goes right to the top. I talk to a lot of parents and a lot of spouses. When they call, I get to hear the whole story and they want to tell the whole story, and I listen to every word about their son or their husband."
Each statue takes about 120 man-hours, but Rist said there was no way to put in words how much it means for him to be able to do that for the families.
The walk will also help raise money for statues honoring Cpl. David Unger of Leavenworth, Pfc. Shane Austin of Edgerton and Pvt. Anthony Mazzarella of Blue Springs, Mo.
Any remaining money will go toward statues of other fallen soldiers and for planning next year's walk.