Giving Thanks: Veterans honored for service to Army Marathon

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Published May 1, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, News Editor

Although only in its third year, the Army Marathon at Fort Hood has quickly become a major race in the United States. However, it could not have come about without the help of a few influential men.
At this month’s meeting of Once Percent, a group of retired military personnel across all ranks and branches, Army Marathon co-founder and coordinator Ed Bandas recognized three men who played key roles in putting the marathon together.
“It’s been almost three years since a group of us came up with a crazy idea that we could actually hold a national event in Bell County called the Army Marathon that would benefit qualified veterans’ charities to help our soldiers in need,” Bandas said. “Early on, we approached two gentlemen that we’ve all held in very high regard. One is General (Dave) Palmer (Ret.) and one is General (Don) Jones (Ret.).”
Both men received a plaque that featured medals from the first and second Army Marathons affixed to the front.
“One of the things I wanted to do is publicly acknowledge not only their support but also the faith that they had that some guy named Ed who’s never done this before and a couple of other folks were actually going to do what they said they were going to do,” Bandas said. “And it was that faith and that strength that pushed us to actually do this, and now we have the privilege of working on the Army Marathon Number Three that’s coming up next March. So I wanted to show them our appreciation by presenting them with individual plaques.”
Jones held a wide variety of position, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Manpower and Personnel Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense. His overseas assignments include Korea, Vietnam and Turkey. He served in the United States Army for 35 years and retired with the permanent rank of Lieutenant General in 1991.
“I want to express my appreciation for this recognition,” Jones said. “Dave and I always give our advice, and hopefully it’s good. I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of people from Milwaukee to Chicago and they said that even though the weather was not warm, (this year’s marathon) was one of the best-organized races they had ever participated in. This has become a nationally-known event; everyone at Fort Hood is getting a lot of feedback, and they’re very, very positive about it. Thank you so much, Ed, for your hard work.”
Palmer is a former Superintendent of the West Point (1986–1991), military historian and author and former President of Walden University. He served two tours in the Vietnam War with the Army and retired as a Lieutenant General.
“This is the only way I’ll ever get a medal for running a marathon,” Palmer said with a chuckle. “While we appreciate this, the real heroes that deserve a pat on the back — starting with Ed, Dick Archer and the others who made it all work, and then expanding to our community: the cops, the firemen, the medical and emergency folks, something like 400 of them it takes to run our marathon—all those people without whom it wouldn’t work deserve recognition. Ed, of course, is the guy that makes it all tick and go, and I can’t think of anybody to be the father of the Army Marathon than a former Marine.”
Along with these two men, Bandas also surprised Captain Dick Archer (Ret.) with a plaque commemorating his efforts in making the Army Marathon a reality.
“I would like to make a presentation to somebody’s who’s been here literally from the very beginning, from the time that we sat down at a golf tournament and decided that we were going to do something charitable, but the one person who’s never been in the limelight for his contributions:  Dick Archer,” Bandas said.
In honor of the introduction of a shadow race in Afghanistan, allowing soldiers to participate outside the U.S. borders for the first time, Archer was presented with a plaque that features the flag flown in the shadow race.
“They (the soldiers) sent us a momento of their race, one of which was to be presented to Dick Archer,” Bandas said. “It reads, ‘So that all shall know, this flag was flown on the 19th day of March 2014 in the face of the enemy and bears witness to the strengths of the American people and the rebuilding of Afghanistan and denying a safe haven for terrorists, presented to Richard “Dick” Archer, Division Headquarters Battalion. This flag was flown for you.”
“This is for all who serve,” Archer said as he accepted his plaque. “God bless them now and forever.”
The next Army Marathon will be held March 1, 2015. For more information, visit http://www.thearmymarathon.com.