As many of you know, this year we presented the organization’s first ever “esprit de corps” award at the 5th Annual Mountain Man Memorial March. The award was presented to the John Carroll University ROTC Team #2 running in honor of Major Douglas Zembiec.
The march is a Full Ruck Sack Race that runs either a 26.2 marathon or a 13 mile half marathon in and around Gatlinburg in the Smoky Mountains. Five man teams from the surrounding states gather to pay tribute to the Gold Star Families by running in their child’s honor. I would really like to share more about the march in general and the great teams and gold star families that I met while in Gatlinburg but right now my heart is just to broken.
One of the members of the team from Appellation State, Cadet Christopher Hasbrouck, collapsed after approximately 10 miles of the half marathon race; we all prayed that it was just a mild heat stroke. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I must tell you Cadet Hasbrouck never regained consciousness, he passed away Wednesday morning at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He has since been transported back to his home in North Carolina.
The reason this has hit me so hard is that Christopher and his teammates were running in honor of my son Sgt Rhys W. Klasno .
My Brief encounter with Cadet Christopher Hasbrouck
Just before the race began while we were taking the picture I told the team how honored my wife and I were, being outsiders from California, to have them include my son. We joked about me being a Marine and my son an Army National Guardsman and how he would be smiling from Heaven having future Army Officers running to honor him. The team was upbeat and ready to go saying they had a better than good chance of winning. I said I liked their attitude but winning wasn’t important to me “just enjoy yourself and be safe” I said. We laughed and talked for a few minutes and I said “see you in a few hours” and wished them a safe journey and God’s Blessing and went off to do my Gold Star Dads duties. I believe I may have been the last non marcher to speak with the team before they started the race. I know God was watching and listening and had an Angel waiting to watch over Christopher.
When it came time for the finish line photo the Big Guy was missing and my heart sunk into my stomach. The rest of the team members were apologizing to me for not finishing as a team and saying how sorry they were that they had let me down. I told them “that is nonsense, there are no losers in this event.” I urged them to encourage Christopher to come to the awards banquet that night so I could thank him for his huge effort and I lifted Christopher up to God with a quick prayer, and again went off to my duties as a judge.
When I got back to the Gold Star Dads tent I retold the news to my state captain Brian Shilling and we both said prayers. Later that evening at the awards ceremony during the passing of the Gold Star Banner, I whispered to the team captain “how’s the Big guy doing?’ he replied “no news yet, I will keep you posted.” That was the last I heard until one of my Tennessee Dads, Russell Rempkie called me on Thursday while I was in Illinois and said “Michael, I have bad news” and that awful feeling in my stomach came back.
Esprit de Corps Award Renamed in Christopher’s Honor
As a father that has lost a son I am well aware of the pain that Christopher’s Dad is going through, as a family we, the Gold Star Dads of America, realize that no amount of reasoning is going to make this tragic event easier on Mr. & Mrs. Hasbrouck. We can only pledge to keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers and go on honoring all of our sons and daughters.
Upon the urging of the Tennessee Gold Star Dads and the unanimous consent of the Board of Directors for Gold Star Dads of America we have decided to honor the Hasbrouck Family by renaming this award in Christopher’s memory. The Gold Star Dads of America esprit de corps award will be forever known as “The Christopher Hasbrouck Esprit de Corps Award” – A fitting memorial to a young man who exemplified every aspect of esprit de corp.