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Running with purpose: Deployed Airman's virtual tribute to fallen pilot Capt. Brandon Cyr

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class De'Quan Simmons
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

An Airman from Scott made a vow he was not willing to break, whether he was in the country or abroad. Airman 1st Class Cody Woolley, 906th Air Refueling Squadron individual equipment apprentice, was asked to run in an upcoming Air Force Marathon in honor of the late Capt. Brandon Cyr, 906th ARS KC-135 pilot.

That was until Woolley received orders to deploy to the Middle East, making him seemingly unable to participate in the marathon. 

Cyr and three others, Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson and Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, were killed in the April 2013 crash of an MC-12 Liberty near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Cyr was a skilled pilot with over 1,700 flying hours, 900 of which were in combat. He also received the Meritorious Service Medal, five Air Medals, and an Achievement Medal. 

The 906th ARS holds a memorial every year on April 27, where Cyr’s family and friends come and share stories about him with the squadron. Cyr's parents asked squadron members if they had any runners willing to represent their son in the Air Force Marathon.

Woolley's leadership approached him about running in Cyr’s honor and put him in contact with the family.

“We knew reaching out to find a runner was a shot in the dark, but Cody jumped up and was more than happy to do it,” said Debbie Cyr, Capt. Cyr’s mother. “We invited him to dinner, and we are still in contact to this day, supporting him and cheering him on.”

The Cyr family signed up their son with Wear Blue: Run to Remember, an organization that is dedicated to honoring military members who have tragically lost their lives while in service and traveling to races nationwide to commemorate their sacrifice.

“It’s just such a celebration of country, life, and our charge to live in the inspiration of these service members who have given their everything,” said Lisa Hallett, Wear Blue: Run to Remember executive director. “When you lose someone you love, you always chase or wish for one more moment.” 

Woolley didn't let the looming deployment stop him from competing; instead, he found a clever way around it. 

“He was sad to tell us he wouldn't be there at the marathon, but he did research and found out he could participate virtually,” said Debbie. “We were just so excited; we thought it was pretty awesome and touching of him.”

Although he couldn't attend the marathon in person, Woolley highlights the importance of overcoming adversity in the sport.

“I would have much rather done the event in person, but I think that is the importance of the sport—being able to adapt in uncomfortable situations and making things harder to become better,” said Woolley.

At an average pace of 9 minutes, 54 seconds, Woolley finished the marathon in 4 hours, 19 minutes. Around the 18th mile of the marathon, his runner's high began to fade, but he kept Cyr as his motivation.

“I kept pushing because of Brandon,” said Woolley. “I feel he has been with me the entire time, from training all the way until race day.”

When asked about his favorite part of this entire experience, Woolley said it was completing runs that they initially didn't feel like starting. There were days when he felt exhausted after work and just wanted to skip training, but Cyr helped push him past barriers.

The Cyr family revealed what they thought the most important part of the experience was. 

“The memory,” said Debbie, and Phil Cyr, Capt. Cyr’s father. “It is important for people to remember who he was and what he did; the growth of his following and more people knowing about him and his history—even in his death, he is still reaching others.”

In a touching display of unity and solidarity, Woolley's virtual participation was a testament to the enduring bond that military families and their fellow service members share. 

The legacy of Cyr lives on through the stories, tributes, and selfless acts of individuals like Woolley, who go above and beyond to ensure that the sacrifices of those who gave their all are never forgotten.