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Heroes Mile to honor lives of deceased veterans during Caribou Marathon

CARIBOU, Maine — This year’s Caribou Marathon will feature an entire mile, dubbed the “Heroes Mile,” dedicated to fallen veterans, as part of CompetitorME’s Service and Sacrifice Series. 

CompetitorME Director Jonathan Kelley said that, over the years, his time keeping and event management business has been hosting more events dedicated to honoring America’s fallen heroes as well as their families.

“Almost 90 percent of our business now deals with that sector of folks,” he said.

Kelley’s business offers event development services including advertising and marketing, sponsorship, branding, media relations, volunteer coordination, and the establishment of a safety plan.

His business will be responsible for the time keeping of each marathon runner but city employees are handling the rest of the event.

The Heroes Mile part of the marathon is solely a volunteer effort that Kelley is spearheading and that he indicated is the first of its kind in Maine

Kelley is well known in Presque Isle for placing flags and signs honoring fallen veterans in his front yard, and this year his organization will be placing 140 signs between miles nine and ten of the Sept. 16 marathon, on the Powers Road in Caribou.

The signs honor veterans who were either killed in action or who died by suicide after returning home, along with their families. The relatives of veterans killed in action are referred to as gold star families, while those of veterans who killed themselves are known as white star families.

“I personally put those signs in my yard for an entire summer,” Kelley said. “People will stop by and look at them or write notes to gold star families. I had the signs for the last couple of years and have used them for a couple of recent events.”

The signs not only include names and photos of the fallen soldiers, but information about each individual and their reasons for enlisting.

Kelley is encouraging gold and white star families to stand next to their loved one’s sign, and is also searching for volunteers who are willing to learn about specific veterans and stand next to their sign with an American flag during the race. Ideally, he would like to see the one mile stretch “lined with American flags.”

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Kelley at competitorme@gmail.com.

Signs will reflect all post 9/11 service members who have ties to Maine, meaning they could have been born in Maine or even have a spouse or relative in the state. Additionally, he said two signs will honor Staff Sgt. Thomas Field and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, Mainers who were killed during “Black Hawk Down” in 1993.

Kelley said that while he is not a veteran himself, he lost his father to cancer in 2004 and can relate to the experience of losing a loved one.

“I don’t know what that knock on the door is like for these gold star families,” he said, “but I can meet them partway at grief and that’s a line we can all walk. We can laugh, cry, hug, and have a wonderful experience. It helps them, it helps me, and it helps bring everybody together. That’s how all of this has progressed.”

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