By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
16 years ago this week, an aircraft in Craig Wilhelm’s unit went down in Afghanistan.
The tragedy killed 18 soldiers, five of whom were Wilhelm’s.
The Bend resident and former Army commander later co-founded Windy25 Memorial Fund, a non-profit named after the aircraft’s call-sign, dedicated to honoring the fallen heroes and their families.
“We always vowed as a team and as a unit that we would want to memorialize these soldiers and honor their families by creating an organization that did just that,” Wilhelm said. “Our mission is to illuminate these soldiers’ life stories and help their families as they continue to endure.”
Windy25 hosts a run in Las Vegas annually, but this year, the pandemic is forcing the fundraiser to be held virtually.
Washington resident Douglas Taylor will be running with his family in Portland Saturday to honor his sister, Brooke, who served in Afghanistan at the same time.
Brooke did make it home.
“It’s always been very important to me to one, support my sister, as she helps honor those service members who lost their lives,” Taylor said. “Also keeping in mind the Gold Star families of the service members and honoring their legacy and the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Georgia resident Sheldon Spivey lost his nephew Michael in the aircraft tragedy, and sees the non-profit as the ultimate support system.
“I grew up in a military family,” Spivey said. “My father is retired, I was in service, my brothers, and so it just felt like home.”
Wilhelm will run in Bend Saturday to pay his respects.
“We want to make sure that we remember our battle buddies,” Wilhelm said. “Remember their families and honor their families, and let them know that we do not ever forget their loved ones or their life stories.”
Windy25 will be hosting a Live Facebook event on Saturday at 9 a.m. to spotlight different races and runners worldwide.
You can learn more about or donate to Windy25 Memorial Fund at windy25.org.