KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – On a bright and cold Saturday morning, Mark Markham prepares to run his 100th half marathon in Kinston.
He’s been running since 2011. It started out as a bet with an old friend but has turned into a mission.
For the past 30 or 40 races, Markham has been running with a flag, and a picture behind his back, part of an organization called Flags 4 Fallen.
The group runs for service members who have passed away for many reasons. Saturday morning, Markham ran for HN Brian D. Franco, a service member at Marine Base Camp Lejeune’s Naval Medical Center.
“[He] was always laughing and joking with us. I mean all-around good kid,” said Markham.
The two were co-workers. But in May 2019, Franco completed suicide.
To honor his memory, Markham carried Franco’s legacy on his back. Markham jogged at Mother Earth Brewing Ironclad’s Half-Marathon with a flag and Franco’s picture on his shirt.
“I had no clue what was going on his mind and what had happened. We just came to work one day and found out what he had done. It was a shocker,” said Markham.
Markham runs in memory of Franco and other service members because he doesn’t want their sacrifice for our country’s freedom to be forgotten.
At the end of each race, the flag and a medal are delivered to the service member or their family. Markham said it’s a token of appreciation for the sacrifices those men and women made.
Editor’s note: The video mentions Franco was a marine. Franco was a sailor at Marine Base Camp Lejeune according to Markham.