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Friday, September 22, 2023

Run to Remember LOOSEFOOT 616 Honors Helicopter Crew, Raises Funds for AWS1 James Buriak Foundation

The crew of LOOSEFOOT 616 from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron EIGHT: LT Brad Foster, LT Paul Fridley, AWS1 James Buriak, HM1 Sarah Burns, and HM2 Bailey Tucker were honored during the 2nd annual Run To Remember held in Coronado August 19th. Photo provided by AWS1 James Buriak Foundation

The AWS1 James Buriak Foundation held its 2nd annual Run to Remember LOOSEFOOT 616 on August 19 at Tidelands Park in Coronado. The event brought together members of the local helicopter community, friends and families of the fallen, as well as those wishing to support the foundation that was born of the tragedy. Prior to the run, local Navy leaders addressed the runners and volunteers. Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific Commodore, Captain Will “Easy” Eastham, talked about the the tight knit helicopter community and the support it provides one another saying “We’re all in this together, all are welcome, and in times of cheer and times of crisis, we are not alone.”

Official Logo for the Run to Remember. Photo provided by AWS1 James Buriak Foundation

The current commanding officer of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Eight, Commander Jimmy Dalo, gave an emotional speech reminding all of the reason for the event. “Two years ago on the 31st of August, 2021 the nation lost five incredible, beautiful and unique people in a helicopter mishap off the coast of Southern California. Each of them was the very best that this nation has to offer and they lived wonderful lives and they were masters of their craft. Their loss galvanized many and it serves as a reminder to the gift that we are given every day.”

Dalo went on to challenge the crowd to “carry on their spirit which was one of love, honor, compassion courage, dedication, service and joy. Run just a little harder, a little further and a little faster in their honor and memory.”

Inspirational remarks were provided prior to the event. Photo courtesy of AWS1 James Buriak Foundation

The 267 registrations, along with donations and fundraising for this event brought in over $10,000 for the AWS1 James Buriak Foundation. The foundation president, Megan Buriak, Gold Star Spouse of Jimmy Buriak, sent a message to the participants thanking them for their support and explaining why she started the foundation “Since that day, I made it my mission to honor the life that Jimmy lived and to create a legacy for him and for 616 that will ensure their lives surpassed their deaths.”

Logo provided by AWS1 James Buriak Foundation

Megan founded the Buriak foundation as an “all-volunteer military and military spouse organization dedicated to providing pre-mishap education and immediate post-mishap support for the Navy and Marine Corps Aviation community and their families. In addition to providing immediate support, we also provide resources for child care, relieving immediate financial burdens and initial help and planning.”

The race, in a tribute to the side number of the helicopter and crew that was lost, had three distances participants could choose from: a 616 meter Fun Run for children, a 6.16 KM run, and a 6.16 Mile Run.

The fun run kicked off with Uncle Sam on stilts cheering on the little ones as they did a small loop in Tidelands Park. The 6.16 Mile runners were launched shortly after the fun run finished with impressive times for the winners. First place male finisher went to David Kelling of San Diego with a time of 37:31 and the top female finisher was Kristen Donahue of Coronado with a time of 44:02. The 6.16 Km run wrapped up the event following a shorter but equally beautiful route through Tidelands park, under the Coronado bridge and next to the Coronado Golf Course. Mike Minneman of San Diego was the top male finisher with a time of 28:11 while Jennifer Sing took top female finisher with a time of 33:28.

A runner proudly carries the American Flag in honor of the lost helicopter crew and the nation they died in service to.

For more information on the AWS1 James Buriak Foundation or to donate to their important mission, visit their website.

Race Coordinator Matt Bettencourt joins a runner holding the American Flag as he finishes the Run to Remember.

Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie is a retired Naval Aviator and Public Affairs Officer whose post-Navy career includes freelance writing, PR Consulting and a two year stint as the San Diego Padres Military Affairs Advisor. Having been stationed in various parts of the country including Washington D.C., Florida and Hawaii, Jeannie appreciates how amazing the Coronado community is and loves the experience her children have had growing up here. Jeannie earned her BS in Marine Biology from Auburn University, her MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego and her MA in Communication and Media Relations at San Diego State University. A life-long learner and avid traveler Jeannie enjoys writing travel pieces, Navy stories and anything else that will broaden her perspective. When she is not working you will find her watching her boys play sports, walking Odin at dog beach, hiking, playing beach volleyball or spending time with the family.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]