FORT HOOD, Texas — Thousands of people commemorated the 19th Century forced march of Native Americans today with a brisk jog at the Second Annual "Trail of Tears Memorial 5K."
The annual event is hosted by First Squadron, Seventh Cavalry Regiment based out of Ft. Hood. It is billed as both a “fun-filled family frolic,” and a sober reminder of the series of mandatory relocations following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
“The Trail of Tears Memorial 5K began and will continue to provide a way to honor those who perished in this horrible and regrettable chapter of American history, while keeping today's soldiers mindful of the Army's unfortunate role in it,” said Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of Ft. Hood, during his opening remarks.
“Look at all these excited faces," he added as he looked around the crowd and pointed to a large family. "Wow, looks like you brought the whole tribe there! Now, who’s ready to get chased off their ancestral lands?”
The run began with the regimental band striking up "Garryowen" as a mounted squad of U.S. Army soldiers began shooting pistols in the air and horsewhipping the last runners past the start point.
“All the money raised today will go to support research into vaccines for communicable diseases,” explained Lt. Col. William J. Custer III, event organizer. "We're going to try to wipe out some of the diseases that devastated so many of the early American peoples."
Custer also expressed his gratitude to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who provided key sponsorship for the event after the Dallas Cowboys backed out, citing "bad taste."
“All that I can say is wow," runner Roger Hamtown said at the finish line as he sipped on a chilled Gatorade. "I've also completed the Bataan Death March Ultra-Marathon and they're both just like the real thing. Look how badly I'm sweating!”