Operation Hero flies flags for the fallen

ROY — There was no shortage of flags or patriotic spirit at the Operation Hero 5K in memory of Army 1st Sgt. Tracy Stapley, formerly of Hooper.

Stapley, 44, died July 3, 2013, at Cam As Syalyah, Qatar, in a noncombat-related incident.

Stapley’s widow, Antoinette Stapley, said the more than 100 participants in a June 27 event at Sandridge Park to raise money for programs serving the families of fallen veterans brought healing to her soul and honored her husband’s legacy.

Members of Stapley’s former unit, the 308th Medical Logistics Company, participated in the event, marching as a group. Some of them traveled from as far away as St. George to honor their fallen comrade in that way.

“It was touching,” Antoinette said through tears. “It just made me wish I could see my husband again, but I know he was a part of them.”

The event raised funds for the Fisher House Foundation and the Snowball Express, both of which have benefited the Stapley family since Tracy Stapley died.

Antoinette said she and her children, Trase and Kennedy Stapley, were able to stay at a Fisher House when they arrived at Dover Air Force Base to receive her husband’s body.

Daughter Kennedy was able to travel to Dallas, Texas, for five days as part of the Snowball Express to be with other children who have lost military parents.

“To be able to give back like he gave to so many has helped me,” Antoinette said. “This has allowed me to continue on  with what he always believed in, helping others.”

The event included displays and information by a handful of nonprofit agencies that benefit veterans.

One such agency was Labs for Liberty.

Miss Davis County Outstanding Teen Madeline Pettit was there to draw awareness to that cause as she is promoting it for her pageant platform.

Pettit’s mother, Chaunntel Pettit, said the dogs are trained to serve veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injuries as they break downward cycles of depression.

“The energy from the dogs interrupts that cycle,” she said, recounting stories of dogs intervening when veterans have displayed depressive behaviors.

She said 22 veterans a day die by suicide in the United States.

“Most of the public doesn’t realize that suicide among veterans is that high,” said Roger Nold of Labs for Liberty. “Statistically, we’ve lost more out of theater than in theater.”

Ethan Gleue, a recent graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, drove from Salt Lake City to participate because he knew Trase Stapley from that school.

“A lot of times, people forget,” Gleue said of supporting causes that serve military families. He said sometimes people are offered the chance to give $1 at the grocery store but he said it was important to do “a little bit more.”

Those who participated said they felt honored to be a part of the event.

Kathy Graham, of Plain City, said she worked with Antoinette at First National Bank, a sponsor of the fundraiser.

“I knew her husband,” Graham said. “I’m just grateful for those who serve.”

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