Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason of the Little Rock Air Force Base has found his calling, and he has been running with it ever since. He is the founder and organizer of Arkansas Run for the Fallen, which will kick off Friday in Ozark and finish at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock on March 16.
The 143-mile memorial run honors Arkansas service members killed in the Global War on Terrorism, and the event also honors Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service.
“I’m very passionate about this,” Beason said. “I was sent a quote once, that said, ‘One person with passion can accomplish more than 40 people with an interest.’ I’ve got passion for this. To me, this is a calling.”
Beason said he discovered his calling on March 27, 2007. He was participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, N.M., a 26.2-mile ruck march through desert terrain symbolizing the march that American and Philippine soldiers endured at the hands of the Japanese in World War II. It wasn’t the race, however, that made the impression that would stay with Beason for life. It was a chance encounter with Janice Bridges, a Gold Star Mother. Her son, Michael Paul Bridges, was killed while serving in Iraq. Bridges introduced herself to Beason as a Gold Star Mother. He had never heard of the organization and questioned her about it.
“I was so embarrassed,” he said. “I was speechless. I looked like a fool. That changed my life. It was a big deal to Bubba Beason. That humbled Bubba Beason.”
As an act of kindness, she allowed Beason to wear her son’s watch, the one he was wearing when he was killed, during that ruck march. He looked at the watch many times along the march and used it for inspiration. Beason said he couldn’t get the conversation with Bridges out of his mind.
Two years later, in 2009, Beason organized the first New Jersey Run for the Fallen while stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. He organized the first Arkansas Run for the Fallen in 2012 after transferring to the Little Rock Air Force Base.
Since March 2007, Beason has organized and participated in several events, including the 2007 60th anniversary of the Air Force Ruck March in honor of the Gold Star Moms; the 2008 Bataan Memorial Death March while deployed to Southwest Asia; and the 2008 and 2009 McGuire Air Force Base Gold Star Moms’ Ruck March. He also participated in the 2008 Run for the Fallen, a coast-to-coast relay run honoring servicemen and women who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The run started at Fort Irwin, Calif., and ended at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Beason was chosen as the 2009 USO Service member of the Year. He was also named as the 2009 Chevy Everyday American Hero and was honored with a trip to the 43rd annual Country Music Awards because of his involvement in these events. He was also a nominee for the 2010 Spirit of Hope.
Modestly, he said he only does what he is supposed to do. None of his participation, he said, is worthy of any kind of accolades.
“I just can’t do enough for Gold Star Mothers,” he said. “They are heroes — the ones who need to be recognized, too. I just hope that someone would treat my mother the way I try to treat them if something ever happens to me.”
Self-described as the ultimate patriot, Beason said his wife and children say the national anthem is his song. Attached to the strings lacing his combat boots is a small piece of flat metal — a piece of floor truss from the World Trade Center given to him by the curator of the 9/11 World Trade Center Museum, Beason said.
“I wear it everywhere I go because I’m not going to forget,” Beason said.
Beason was stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base on 9/11, but soon after the attacks, he went to New York with dog teams to help with search and rescue.
When he was 13, he said, his father died of a heart attack, leaving Beason bitter at the world. Self-described as a country boy, he said, it was his dream to grow up and work on airplanes. He joined the Air Force when he was 18. He has served in the military for about 22 years. He has been deployed to Afghanistan seven times since 2002. One of his greatest recognitions, he said, is the Gold Star Mothers Cross of Honor that he received in 2009 in Washington, D.C.