2019 is the year of driving to survive! Each year that passes is another year that memories fade away. The emphasis we place on the importance of our personal history with respect to specific events, serves to allow us to envision our future.
Turning a tragedy – July 16th, 2015 – into a triumph is not easy. The Fallen 5 terrorist attack is a day even more tragic than September 11th, 2001 for me. I was a freshman in high school when I saw the towers fall. I then made a personal oath to make right of that wrong, by working thereafter to earn my place in servitude to my countrymen and women in the military. 4 years later I joined the Air Force and served faithfully overseas for 4 years fighting in the wars. I fought for a better future for my countrymen and women, and myself.
Making Chattanooga, TN my home was the dream I was building. I finished a degree from UTC and started a business and a family in the City. July 16th ,2015 changed me. I will never forget that day. My employee came up to me and said his Mom called saying, “Don’t go on Amnicola Hwy, there is a shooting happening!” I was immediately concerned, but realized we were not in immediate danger. The following days and weeks were tough. We Chattanoogans received the news; heartbrokenly we mourned. This feeling for me however, has never adjourned. One month after the shooting I drove to the Amnicola shooting site to pay my respects.
Seeing all the flags made me cry. I saw the love, all the love for these men. There were two ladies who were caretakers of the site, and this was their last day serving. They had been there every day since the shooting – for an entire month. As I stood there for a long time, I noticed a man removing the flags. Naturally I asked what he was doing, and he said he was an active duty sailor, off duty, but was removing the flags as they were set to be removed. I was heartbroken knowing the proper way to dispose of the flags was to burn them. I knew I could not save them all so I asked for help in removing the largest flag attached to the main sign. We cut it down, folded it, saluted each other and in the moment – I gave my oath to take this flag to the Golden Gate Bridge in their honor and fly it. I have made good on that oath every year since the shooting. I keep the flag folded all year until I walk the flag to Golden Gate Bridge, unfold it, let Old Glory fly, then respectfully fold it back up for next year.
Today, we are embarking on the 4th year since losing GYSGT Sullivan, SGT Holmquist, SSTG Wyatt, LCPL Wells, and PO Smith. These are the men I think about every single day. The Fallen 5 Drive is still alive and I drive for the memory of these men. For me, July 16th, 2015 is not just a date of remembrance once a year. Rather it is a lifetime of honoring their sacrifices – and especially for 2 weeks and 5,000 miles of grueling driving on the Fallen 5 Drive. This is how I am turning this tragedy into a TRIUMPH! HOORAH, SEMPER FIDELIS!
The story of the Fallen 5 Drive is about Americans and people coming together in the name of love. Hatred of people will never solve our problems. I pay my respects to these men, to my community, my country, and my American Flag. I try to be a leader in what it is we should do, rather than simply complain on line. Real-life acts, leads to realizing the truest potential within ourselves and recognizing the facts. Loving, selfless sacrifice for others is the ultimate form of existence we can realize as humans. I cannot bring these men back, nor will I retaliate and attack, rather I will sacrifice for these men to keep their lives – living in our Chattanoogan community.
I will – for the 4th year in a row – complete the Fallen 5 Drive, with your help! I cannot do this alone. Supporting the mission creates healing for our community. Share, sponsor, and most importantly NEVER FORGET THE FALLEN 5. Stay tuned as we begin raising support from now until we complete the drive in Chattanooga..
To support contact Joshua at 423.414.8233. Thank you,
Joshua David Kapellusch
Driver/Founder of the Fallen 5 Drive