A new dawn: Guardsmen run to remember comrades killed in IHOP shootings
A ribbon of crimson appeared on the horizon, signaling that a new day was beginning and the lingering darkness would slowly fade.
About 50 Nevada Guard soldiers and airmen were gathered in the pre-dawn chill Friday outside IHOP on South Carson Street. They weren’t there to dwell on what happened exactly two years earlier, the day a mentally ill man walked into the restaurant and fired off some 60 rounds with an automatic assault rifle, killing three Guardsmen and a civilian and wounding seven. They were there to remember their comrades who lost their lives that day: Lt. Col. Heath Kelly, Master Sgt. Christian Riege and Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney. Civilian Florence Donovan-Gunderson also was killed.
And the soldiers and airmen were there to run. Capt. Laura Boldry, who worked closely with Kelly, organized the 5K run/walk from IHOP to the Nevada Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters as an active way to honor the fallen. As she talked about the victims, she discussed the importance of “bringing them home.”
“I thought this would be a neat way to remember him,” she said of Kelly. “It’s not about me.”
Boldry said the walk/run could become an annual event. Friday morning, she was just glad the region’s heavy smoke had largely cleared. The fortuitous timing wasn’t lost on her; she said she prayed the night before for their air to clear so the event could proceed.
“It’s Col. Kelly from the heavens above,” she said. “I said, ‘If you have any faith in me, sir …’”
Tracy Kelly, the lieutenant colonel’s widow, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Mock, who was wounded in the shootings but survived, took part Friday morning. Kelly met runners at the end of the event, and Mock greeted them at the beginning.
Mock hasn’t allowed the incident to change his life or his routine, and he said revisiting the site wasn’t an issue for him.
“I came back the day it reopened,” he said of IHOP, adding that he also returned on the one-year anniversary of the shootings. He had the same breakfast both times as on the day of the shootings: the breakfast sampler.
Reflecting on that fateful day, he described it simply as a “random act of evil.”
A bus filled with runners arrived shortly before 6 a.m., nearly doubling the crowd’s size. Runners gathered at 6 in front of Boldry, who shared instructions.
And then they were running east on Eagle Station Lane, straight toward the ever-growing light.