Every year on Sept. 6, Maj. Laura Boldry has organized a memorial run to honor her coworkers who died in 2011 after a shooting at the Carson City IHOP.
On Tuesday, the five year anniversary of the shooting that killed three Nevada National Guardsmen and one civilian, Boldry had help from across the globe.
The Las Vegas-based 17th Sustainment Brigade stationed in Kuwait also held a run to remember the shooting on Sept. 6, 2011. That’s the day when Nevada National Guardsmen Lt. Col. Heath Kelly, 35, Master Sgt. Christian Riege, 38, and Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31, were killed when 32-year-old Eduardo Sencion opened fire in the Carson Street IHOP. Sixty-seven year old Florence Donovan-Gunderson also was killed in the restaurant and seven others injured including two other Guardsmen.
Sencion killed himself at the scene.
Tuesday morning in the chilly Carson City September air, Boldry was accompanied by her fellow Guardsmen, Carson City Sheriff’s Office deputies, Gov. Brian Sandoval and civilians to run in memorial of their lost comrades.
“I’ve come out every year to show respect for the victims of this tragedy but also in respect for the men and women of the National Guard because this tragedy affected everyone in the National Guard and in our community,” said Sandoval. “It is just one way to show every year that we are thinking of them.”
Sandoval said the tragedy struck Carson City at its core because of the senselessness in a small town.
“It is profound and it affects everyone because it is something that doesn’t happen here. When it happened, I had just come back from visiting (troops) in Afghanistan and Kuwait and see the sacrifice they make and then to come home and have these senseless murders.”
The runners met at 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Carson Street IHOP, where the shooting occurred, and ran from Eagle Station Lane back to the National Guard Adjunct Office on Fairview Drive. The route was the same one the Guardsmen would take from their office to IHOP and the run symbolized bringing the three Guardsmen back home, said Boldry.
“We want to do something that these group of soldiers never got to do, and that is to return to work,” Capt. Todd Brown, the Nevada National Guard Chaplain, said during the prayer before the run.
This year was a little different for the runners, as they had more community support involved with the run. Snap On Tools donated water to the runners, and set up at the corner of Saliman Road and Fairview Drive to show their support.
“We wanted to do something to support (local law enforcement) and we are more than happy and honored to show our appreciation for those who put their lives on the line every day,” said Lori Shine, Human Resources manager.
Carson City wasn’t alone on Tuesday in honoring the fallen soldiers.
In Kuwait, Command Sgt. Maj. James Richardson, of the Las Vegas-based 17th Sustainment Brigade, held a run.
Richardson had worked with Kelly and McElhiney for several years and was deployed in Afghanistan in 2009 to 2010 with Riege. Richardson thought a run in Kuwait would be a good way to be able to show their support even overseas.
“This run is good to do and it is a good opportunity to get us, who are out here away from home, to remember these special soldiers,” Richardson said.
There were nearly 200 soldiers, all stationed in Kuwait who participated in the run.
“It was actually kind of overwhelming with that many people,” Richardson said in a phone call after the run. “...but we had soldiers from all over, not just under our organization, and we just got to talk about our soldiers and the (IHOP) event.” At their run, they had the Chaplain speak and then a soldier brought out his bagpipes and played “Amazing Grace” for the runners. Richardson said a lot of people didn’t really know about the events that took place in that IHOP five years ago, even though it was such a large blow for the Nevada soldiers. But he said, this provided them the opportunity to share with their fellow soldiers the good times and the stories about the three.
Richardson said for him, the deaths were difficult to deal with, especially Riege’s since they were deployed together.
“We didn’t lose anyone in our deployment from Nevada (while we were in Afghanistan) then to come home and this happens a year after we are back, that’s the hard part to understand and I don’t even try to understand,” Richardson said.
But the run is everyone’s way of trying to honor McElhiney, Kelly and Riege’s memories, to try to make sure they aren’t forgotten. The run, roughly the equivalent of a 5k, isn’t timed, there are no prizes, as Sandoval described it, it’s to make sure that with every step people are thinking of the three soldiers. Every year, this one included, McElhiney’s father, Ken Curtzwiler, runs with a folded American flag and a plaque with his daughter’s name on it to deliver back to Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan at the end of the run.
Curtzwiler brought up the rear of the runners, handing off his flag and plaque like every year, and breathless and sweaty he said one thing:
“We brought Miranda home again.”