FORT LEAVENWORTH — An Army major is hitting the pavement this weekend in a test of physical endurance to honor the 10 soldiers who died under his command in Iraq.
Maj. Cedric Burden will attempt to run 31 miles, or the equivalent of a 5K run for each of the soldiers, as part of today's "Patriots' Run" in suburban Kansas City.
The event will last nine hours and 11 minutes to commemorate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While some participants will be running relays, Burden will try to do what he is calling an ultramarathon distance. He thinks it will take him about six hours.
The 35-year-old from Gary, Ind., said the attempt is as much about remembering the nine men and one woman who died under his watch as it is a test of his ability. He's notified the families of his intent.
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"It's not like a surprise. They know my character and my genuineness," said Burden, who is studying at the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.
Burden was commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry out of Fort Campbell, Ky., when the 10 soldiers died in 2005 and 2006. They were killed in four separate attacks near Kirkuk in an area north of Baghdad known as the Sunni Triangle. Two of the attacks killed four soldiers each. He questioned his command decisions after each death.
"You have to think, 'Am I doing something wrong? Am I setting a pattern?' You start questioning yourself, but you have to remember that the enemy is thinking and planning out there, too," he said. "Divine intervention means some things you can't control."
Over the past five years, Burden has maintained contact with the soldiers' families.
Patricia Flanagan's son Dennis was a sergeant in Burden's company. He was one of four who died when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in Iraq on Jan. 20, 2006. She said her son knew he wanted to be a soldier at age 6 and enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks, adding it "was his destiny" to fight and die.
Flanagan said her son was on his third deployment to Iraq. She said his personal writings indicated he was resigned to the fact that he could lose his life in combat.
"I think he was hoping that he was wrong," she said, adding that the night before he died he told his buddies "to remember him as the goofy guy that everyone could depend on."
Burden went to Lecanto, Fla., in 2007 when a post office was renamed for Flanagan's son.
"He really feels their loss a lot. This is something that's very personal to him," Flanagan said. "This is one way for him to honor them."