Story and Photos by
Spc. Marcus Fichtl
8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
HONOLULU — Law enforcement professionals from across the islands of Hawaii streamed into Les Murakami Stadium with banners high and arms outstretched, high-fiving Special Olympics athletes as they finished the final leg of the 26th Annual Barboza Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, here, May 25.
More than a thousand law enforcement, civilian and military personnel, including the Soldiers of the 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, participated in the three mile run from Fort DeRussy Park in downtown Waikiki to the baseball stadium on the University of Hawaii’s campus.
“All their life, they’ve been told they ‘can’t do this, can’t do that,’ but when the military comes through the stadium, it completely validates who they are,” said Nancy Bottelo, president, Special Olympics-Hawaii, speaking about the Special Olympics athletes in attendance.
Named after Troy Barboza, a fallen Honolulu police officer who dedicated his time coaching Special Olympics athletes and his life protecting Honolulu, the Troy Barboza Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run is part of a worldwide series of torch runs.
The series stretches across all 50 states and 47 nations and signals the start of the Special Olympics season, while raising nearly $34 million annually for its athletes.
According to Bottelo, the first run only had 20 participants. But from its humble beginnings, the event grew. And when the 8th MP Bde. moved to Hawaii from Korea, bringing nearly 1,000 Soldiers, friendships grew as much as the participation.
As the event gained momentum, deployed units in Iraq and Afghanistan started sending in photos from their own torch runs, taking it to “a whole different level of participation,” Bottelo said.
The MPs boarded buses at Schofield Barracks and made the trek to downtown, together.
For Spc. Alan George, a medic with the 558th Military Police Company, 728th MP Battalion, 8th MP Bde., who has helped earthquake victims in Haiti and Soldiers of his unit, knew the torch run was something he needed to be a part of.
“My job is to help others,” George said. “But to run into an entire stadium of Special Olympics athletes who stand and salute us for the simple fact that we gave them a day, while they face a lifetime of adversity, humbles me. They help us understand why we fight, why we do what we do.”