Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
HONOLULU — Alone, aloha is an indescribable word.
At its very core, it means the presence of divine breath, but to be truly understood, it must be experienced.
Enter the Great Aloha Run.
A 28-year Hawaiian tradition, the GAR is an 8.15-mile run from the Aloha Tower to the Aloha Stadium featuring more than 29,700 participants this year, including more than 4,300 military members.
The Great Aloha Run is more than just one of the top 15 runs in the U.S. It has raised more than $9.1 million for more than 150 nonprofit health and human service organizations and community groups throughout Hawaii.
“This event is so much more than just a great opportunity to get together and run,” said Maj. Demetrick Thomas, secretary to the general, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. “It raises more than $400,000 annually for charities that support the military and the community at large, and some of the runners find some very creative ways of doing it.”
Some run in costume, some run with flags, and some even run with giant balloon dragons. People travel from across the country and the world to watch and participate in the spectacle that is the Great Aloha Run.
“The energy that came from everyone is what really keeps you going,” said 1st Lt. Brigida Sanchez, Operations Company, U.S. Army-Pacific and avid runner. “Every time you think of stopping you find another reason to keep moving.”
Sanchez has run races throughout the country but loves the diversity of the Great Aloha Run and people who run it.
“From the high school bands on the corners, to the elaborate costumes that people wear, it’s just an overall fun event.” she exclaimed. “I saw kids younger than 6 running. I was even passed by a man running the entire race backward.”
Personified by the Sounds of Freedom, more than 4,300 military personnel participated in this year’s race, singing cadences and other songs to lift the spirits of all within earshot.
“People love to run with the Sounds of Freedom,” said Carol Jaxon, director, Great Aloha Run. “They are calling cadence and singing, and there is just a lot of energy surrounding the formation.”
Maj. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commander, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, led the Sounds of Freedom formation this year.
“I want to thank everyone who participated in today’s Great Aloha Run,” Terry said. “Supporting this run was a great, great opportunity to give back and support a community that has supported us all these years.”
Terry’s 8th TSC won the trophy for the largest unit formation in the race; Terry also represented the Army by accepting the trophy for the largest service participating in the race.
The race went off without a hitch or a hiccup, largely due to the efforts of the 8th TSC and Sgt. Maj. Lisa Williams, the 8th TSC current operations sergeant major and military logistics coordinator for the race.
“We were tasked with making sure everyone got to and from the race in a timely fashion,” Williams said. “We provided the cups for each of the water points, as well as the water itself.”
The task took more than 75 buses running constantly from designated points across the island, 10 water buffalos located at points along the race route, a few dozen personnel and many weeks of planning.
“I’m glad everything went smoothly and everyone had a good race,” Williams said. “There were no major injuries or logistical problems that occurred. I’m proud of the hard work by all of the 8th TSC Soldiers that volunteered their time … and of everyone, military and civilian, that ran. Now it’s time to step back, take a breath and get ready for next year.”