ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – A popular annual event that honors members of the U.S. Military killed in action is expanding its reach.
This year, for the first time, the KIA Memorial Roadmarch will also honor police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty.
If you’re unfamiliar with “KMR,” for several years, the 10K challenge with physical obstacles along the way has garnered thousands of participants, who compete at Chestnut Ridge Park. They carry weight on their backs, equal the pounds of food each person donates to Gold Star family food pantries.
Throughout the race, marchers pass the names of those who died fighting for freedom.
Starting this year, just like with the KIA Roadmarch, police and firefighters would take a similar route through the park while passing by the names of first responders who died in the line of duty. The idea is to not only remember those fallen first responders but also be inspired by them.
Sergeant Major Jason Jaskula, who founded KMR, had the idea of a Fire & Police race when he realized local first responders have also lost many members in the line of duty.
“Especially these times, you look at a lot of news reports, there’s not a whole lot of respect going on fire and police, you know?” he said. “Those are the few jobs that can’t say no. They show up. You call them, they’re there.”
Jaskula started KMR in memory of his best friend, Chris Dill, a staff sergeant and Buffalo firefighter who was killed in action while they were in Iraq in 2005.
Hosting a Fire and Police race is another way Jaskula hopes to remember Dill’s legacy.
“When me and Chris first got our jobs, he became a fireman, I because a police officer. So we both came from military being drill sergeants,” Jaskula said. “Somebody said that names will never be forgotten as long as you speak their name.”
The KIA Memorial Roadmarch will be held Saturday, Aug. 17. The Fire & Police 10K will be held Sunday, Aug. 18.
Otis Stephens has been a Buffalo firefighter for 8 years, and he’s helping spread the word to other firefighters.
He’s excited to participate this year.
“You come in and you hear the stories of the people that came before us…I have a father who’s been retired…he retired with 30 years on. So those stories, we just try to continue the legacies and carry on with those things. So it means a lot because our job is very dangerous, and each day, we could lose another,” Stephens said.
Stephens is also sending out a personal challenge to Buffalo Police to come compete against him and other Buffalo firefighters as part of a friendly rivalry.
“We have an ongoing rivalry between flag football, basketball, hockey, and all these sports, so why not send the challenge out to the Buffalo Police Department to come on out?” he said. “And watch Buffalo Fie win.”
You can register for either race via Kiamemorialmarch.com as well as day-of on the 17th and 18th at Chestnut Ridge Park. The registration fee costs less to sign up in advance.