By Mark Leland | Fox 11 | www.fox11online.com | August 13, 2011
HOBART - Governor Scott Walker proclaimed Saturday in Wisconsin "Private First Class Ryan Jerabek--Semper Fi Fund Day" to mark the 6th annual Ryan Jerabek Memorial Challenge.
The event is a 4-mile run-walk named after the fallen Marine from Hobart with proceeds going to a fund to help injured Marines.
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Jerabek died in an attack in Iraq in 2004. His devotion to the Marines and the military live on with his parents who founded the Ryan Jerabek Memorial Challenge in their son's memory.
"It's a four-mile run which my son ran to train to become a U.S. Marine, and people running today are running or walking in his footsteps," said Ken Jerabek, Ryan's father.
From Four Seasons Park in Hobart through the surrounding rural roadways nearly 1,500 people came out to run or walk. Even several members of Ryan's Marine battalion who fought alongside him in Iraq came out to take part.
"It's bittersweet, great to be out here with everybody but at same time we're here because a great friend died in combat," said Ryan Opeka, Jerabek's squad leader in Iraq.
Opeka ran the four miles bringing with him a close reminder of his friend. Jerabek's official dog tags were around Opeka's neck at the request of Jerabek's parents.
"It's heart wrenching I have an opportunity to wear these, but it's also a real honor," Opeka said.
Each year profits from the challenge are donated to the Injured Marine Sempfer Fi Fund to assist injured service members and their families. Rita Jerabek says the Marine family is a close one, and they all come together for the challenge to help one another.
"This mission statement is support our troops, thank our vets and honor our fallen," explained Rita Jerabek, Ryan's mother.
And each year the countless volunteers, the hundreds who walk and the even more who run, all help to fulfill that mission, one step at a time. Last year the non-profit Jerabek Foundation donated $20,000 to the Semper Fi Fund.