Many of you who know me are aware of the deep appreciation I have for service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending our freedoms in war-torn countries. Unfortunately, the names of many of these heroes are forgotten and their stories are left untold. This letter is meant to share the story of one hero in SFC Christopher Celiz, whom I had the honor of meeting a few years ago. SFC Celiz served in the U.S Army in a Special Operations unit in Savannah, GA. On July 12, 2018, while conducting combat operations in Paktiya province, Afghanistan, SFC Celiz was killed by enemy small arms fire during the time he was assisting in the medical evacuation of a casualty.
While there are numerous online news sources detailing the events that transpired the night he was killed, I want to avoid emphasizing his death, but rather cast a light on his endless devotion to his family, friends, and his country. According to many of the men in his platoon, SFC Celiz was greatly invested in the well-being of every individual he was in charge of both professionally and personally. He would often put in long hours tirelessly working to plan training events that would better the overall skill set of the platoon for upcoming deployments. In short, many of the attributes that SFC Celiz embodied are what every soldier in the United States Army envisions a leader to be--inspiring, genuine, and fair.
Therefore, in order to pay tribute to SFC Celiz, I will be running in the Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. on October 7th while raising money for Lead the Way Fund. LTWF is a non-profit organization that helps assist families of fallen service members who are coping with the death of a loved one. It's mission is to raise money "in support of disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who have died, have been injured or are currently serving in harm's way around the world." What makes this charitable organization unique is that it is truly invested in helping Rangers and their families overcome hardships of war rather than making fundraising political and business driven. For instance, when the government shutdown occurred in October 2013, death and burial benefits were denied to seventeen fallen service members, two of which were Army Rangers. In order to alleviate some of the burden placed on these families, LTWF stepped up to ensure that grieving parents and wives were able to travel to Dover Air Force and embrace their deceased loved ones as their flag draped caskets returned from overseas.
While running in the Army Ten-Miler is a privilege in and of itself, doing so on behalf of LTWF is a rewarding experience because of its contributions to families like SFC Celiz. I will start by putting in $100 and hope that each of you can make a contribution as well. There is no required amount that you must put forth, but whatever you are able to give is greatly appreciated. You can donate online through my page that I've created by clicking on the URL: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign-manager/edit/timothyclarke2/remembering-sfc-christopher-celiz1/campaign
Nevertheless, while competing in this event is an overall fun experience, it means more than just any race...it pays tribute to service members, like SFC Celiz who have sacrificed their life while fearlessly defending our freedoms abroad. A friend at work often reminds me, if we don't remember and honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us, then no one will. Thus, my hope is that you will reflect on these sacrifices so that the names of heroes like SFC Celiz will never be forgotten and their death will not be in vain.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading and hopefully I'll see some of you on race day!