As a group of military parents, veterans and community members strained to see past the headlights of cars traveling down Elk Grove Boulevard, someone yelled out, "There they are!"
The attendees assembled at Cosumnes Fire Station 71 were waiting for a pair of joggers who ran about five miles as part of the first leg of the inaugural California Run For the Fallen, a 150-mile, three-day trek to honor the memories of service members who have died in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During each mile on the run, flags and biographical cards are placed to honor the memory of fallen veterans from California.
"We want to keep the kids of these families–keep their spirits alive," said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Clay, one of the event's founders. "A name unspoken is a name forgotten."
Clay said the event is modeled after a national event and a similar run in New Jersey.
Elk Grove resident Betty Hall, whose son Sgt. 1st Class Bryan E. Hall was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2009, said the event was wonderful.
"To me it's just amazing the support people give the fallen," she said.
John Steiner, the Assistant State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, said he participated in the homecoming memorial for Hall, whose body was transported across Elk Grove on a Cosumnes Fire engine.
"I think it's important that we do that–bring public awareness to their situation [and] honor the fallen," Steiner said.
Laura Spencer of Carmichael, whose son Spc. Raymond N. Spencer, Jr., was killed in 2007, was also thankful for the event.
"It's always nice to be honored and not forgotten," she said.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) held a flag at the entrance to the fire station, and said he came to the event because he wanted to watch the Patriot Guard Riders in action. He said the run was a good opportunity to recognize local service members.
"We've got men and women in uniform who are putting their lives on the line for us," Lungren said. "They just don't get that much attention."
The event continues Saturday and Sunday, and ends at the Sacramento Valley VA National Cemetery in Dixon. Sunday's event includes a public 10K run–click here to read about that.